"Tender and illuminating. A beautiful debut." Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me
A heartrending and hopeful story about a nonverbal girl and her passion for space exploration, for fans of See You in the Cosmos, Mockingbird, and The Thing About Jellyfish.
Twelve-year-old Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Challengerit's the first time a teacher is going into space, and kids across America will watch the event on live TV in their classrooms. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program. They planned to watch the launch together. But Bridget has disappeared, and Nova is in a new foster home.
While foster families and teachers dismiss Nova as severely autistic and nonverbal, Bridget understands how intelligent and special Nova is, and all that she can't express. As the liftoff draws closer, Nova's new foster family and teachers begin to see her potential, and for the first time, she is making friends without Bridget. But every day, she's counting down to the launch, and to the moment when she'll see Bridget again. Because as Bridget said, "No matter what, I'll be there. I promise."
|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Nicole Panteleakos is a middle-grade author, playwright, and Ravenclaw whose plays have been performed at numerous theaters and schools in Connecticut and New York City. She earned her BA in Theatre Scriptwriting from Eastern Connecticut State University and is currently working toward her MFA in Children's Literature at Hollins University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has three awesome godchildren, two quirky cats, and at least one Broadway song stuck in her head at all times. Planet Earth Is Blue is her debut novel. Visit Nicole on Twitter at @NicWritesBooks, on Facebook (facebook.com/nicolepanteleakos), or at nicolepanteleakos.com.
Read an Excerpt
Bridget was gone.
And Nova was broken.
Nova hadn’t wanted to run away from the last foster family. They were nice enough. Sure, it wasn’t easy sharing one bedroom with four other girls in three sets of bunk beds. There was no privacy for Bridget, who liked her space, and there was no room for hand flapping or bouncing, which Nova liked to do while pretending she was in space.
Plus there was a rule no shower could last more than eight minutes.
And they weren’t allowed to watch TV, listen to records, or drink anything with caffeine.
But there had been hot oatmeal in the mornings. Cold lemonade with lunch. Warm blankets at night. Nobody yelled bad words or spanked them. Nobody made Bridget scrub floors like Cinderella. Nobody called Nova Dumbo because she couldn’t speak. Most importantly, they were together.
Bridget hated it anyway.
“I’m out of here,” she kept saying. “I can’t stand it another day. I’m losing my mind.”
Nova wasn’t worried then. She knew they’d end up somewhere else eventually.
When the time came, though, leaving was different. No social worker to transport them. No paperwork for adults to sign. Bridget didn’t even glare at the failed foster parents and say goodbye. Nova and Bridget just piled into a car and drove away. This was not their routine, which made Nova’s tummy hurt because she hated goodbyes, but she hated deviating from the routine even more.
“Don’t worry!” Bridget had kissed Nova’s forehead. “I’ll take care of you like I’ve always taken care of you!”
Now Bridget was gone. And Nova was worried.
She rocked back and forth on her knees, hugging NASA Bear to her chest, and glanced around her newest bedroom. The first room she’d ever had all to herself.
Diagonal from the door was a double bed with a fancy carved headboard. The mattress was soft, the pillow was softer, and the blanket was plush and purple, covered in tiny silver stars.
It was too big.
The bedroom was long but narrow. It had two windows, one facing the front yard and the other facing the back. Out back there was an in-ground pool, covered up for the winter. Out front a pathway leading up to the door was guarded by two giant stone lions. At midnight the town switched off the streetlights, which made Nova happy because total darkness meant she could see the Big Dipper lurking along the horizon, where the sun set shortly before dinner each night.
It was too nice.
The upstairs bathroom had a tub long enough to stretch out in. The kitchen always smelled of fresh-baked brownies or banana bread and the color television had a remote control. Most rooms had wall-to-wall carpeting. There were lots of windows through which the sun shone.
It was too much like a home.
Nova didn’t want it to start feeling like home. Bridget always warned, “If it feels like home, it’s harder to leave.” Nova hugged her teddy bear tighter, trying to picture her big sister in the bedroom beside her. What had Bridget been thinking, deciding to run away like that? It was already January 1986, and in August she’d be eighteen. Then Bridget could raise Nova herself, like they’d always planned.
Only Bridget was gone. And Nova was lonely.
“You’ll start school on Monday,” new foster mother Francine warned during breakfast.
Nova hated new schools more than she hated new foster families. New schools always spent the first week or two testing her and always came to the same conclusions: “Cannot read. Does not speak. Severely mentally retarded.”
Bridget hated the word retarded.
“My sister’s not dumb,” she’d tell anyone who’d listen. “She’s a thinker, not a talker.”
The truth was, Nova rarely spoke and when she did, she had difficulty controlling her volume, so sometimes she’d be whispering on a crowded playground and other times she’d be shouting in church. Even when she did manage to find the right sound, forming a whole word was its own challenge. She could say “Oh” or “Kay” but not “Okay.” She could say “Wah” or “Ter” but not “Water.” She could say “Coo” or “Kee” but not “Cookie.” And sometimes when she’d try to say a simple word like “Cat” an entirely different word would come out, like “Boo,” which didn’t make sense to anyone, not even Bridget.
Most of the time Nova didn’t bother to speak at all.
Rocking back and forth on top of the fluffy blankets in the bedroom she had all to herself, Nova wondered for the two millionth time where Bridget had gone and whether she would keep her promise to return in time to see the first teacher skyrocket into space.
“No matter where we end up,” Bridget had said, “even if we have to be separated for a while, I’ll come back to see NASA make history, okay? I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Both sisters had been dying to see Challenger launch ever since President Reagan announced the contest to find the perfect teacher over a year ago. Nova was glad the waiting was almost over. She wondered if Bridget was glad too.
Nova kissed NASA Bear’s belly. His plastic bubble astronaut helmet pressed against her forehead. He had been a gift from their mama, who had very strange ideas about how the 1969 moon landing actually happened.
“Government orchestrated!” Mama liked to say. “All on a soundstage, babies, thanks to movie magic! Did you see the way the astronaut’s boots kicked up dirt? The way the flag waved? There’s no wind on the moon, girls! How was it waving? It was government orchestrated, that’s how! That means the government made it up, to trick us!”
Their mama thought a lot of things were government orchestrated.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Children’s, and Wendy Lamb Books for the advance reader copy of Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos, in exchange for an honest review. I could not put this book down, debut author, Nicole Panteleakos, nails Nova’s nonverbal autism, her daily frustrations being silent, missing her big sister, Bridget (who gets Nova and champions Nova’s vast knowledge of space and everything else!!!) excitement for the liftoff of the Challenger, a new school, and foster family. This is a must read for all middle school students and will benefit Young Adult and adult readers (school teachers, guidance counselors too) as a window into what it is like to be an autistic foster child. This book does a stellar job of creating empathy both for Nova and Bridget but the reader also learns more about the challenges and desperate hope and love of the foster family. I also found the Author’s Note and Acknowledgments invaluable for the information it provides on autism and the author’s own Asperger’s.
If I could I would give this book a 10/10 if was that good its a very good book considering I dont read alot and a book has to be a really( 100 reallys later) really good book for me to give a 10/10. - S.N.I.D.E.R1613
Content Warning: Violent sudden death. I love Nova and her letters to Bridget. I just wanted to fight for her and get her a pair of ear plugs/ear muffs. Bridget is an amazing big sister! Every memory made ache for her and itch that much more to meet her. YAY for great foster families!!! And while the ones before weren’t great, at least none were abusive molesting horror stories. Those stories should be for survivors by survivors. And the fact this wasn’t used to up the inspiration porn factor makes me love it all the more. We all know how the Challenger story ends. But I did not see how Nova and Bridget’s would. There is this prevailing sense of dread and hope twisted throughout because of this dichotomy. I couldn’t stop reading Planet Earth Is Blue. I finished it on the bus home from work AND BAWLED MY EYES OUT. In front of everyone. Could not stop. Did not stop until I was home 40 mins later hugging my daughter and eating. As for what kind of tears those were? You’ll have to read it for yourself. There’s a chance to win a copy of this Must Read below!ook. Planet Earth is Blue is AMAZING.
Nicole Panteleakos has done something extraordinary with her debut novel, Planet Earth is Blue: she puts us inside the imagination and heart of a severely autistic twelve year old, with all her hopes, her frustrations, her loneliness, and her longing for a permanent family. Nova is a unique and sympathetic spirit, burdened with just about every challenge imaginable. She's lost her mother and lost track of her elder sister, who has been her unstinting and sole advocate. She's in foster care, she's non-verbal, and almost everybody sees her as "retarded". But Nova soars above her limitations, refusing to become her labels. And because she so persistently pursues her dreams--keeping a heartfelt journal nobody can or is willing to read, refusing to give up hope that she'll be reunited with her elder sister, exploring an expanding universe of her own imagination--readers can't help but dream right along with her. I'm not sure I've ever seen an autistic character portrayed so convincingly. She's a space oddity, in the very best way. One of my favorite things about this novel is Nova's incredible attention to the smallest details of her environment--she sees the world with a kind of Zen clarity and focus. She seems to live each fresh moment fully (at least, when she's not zoning out or melting down). Nova may have trouble meeting others' eyes, she may not be able to concentrate for long on a test, but when it comes to differentiating umpteen shades of green or describing in loving detail every article of clothing she puts on in the morning, she's at full attention. I loved this aspect of her, I loved watching her first tentative friendships unfold, and most of all I loved seeing this very special girl reach for the stars.