Source: Publisher – I received this in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Edition: Hardcover, 240 Pages
Genre: Children’s/Middle Grade Contemporary
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble
Rating: 5/5 Stars
A heartrending and hopeful debut novel 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 Challenger–it’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 Bridget said, “No matter what, I’ll be there. I promise.”
Planet Earth is Blue is one of those books where I knew as soon as I saw the cover it was one I needed to read, and when I read the blurb on the inside cover I also knew it was a book that would make me cry.
Planet Earth is Blue centers around a 12-year-old girl named Nova, who is autistic and nonverbal. She is in foster care and without her older sister for the first time since being placed into the system, and all her hopes are riding on being able to watch the Challenger launch with her sister by her side.
This turned out to be such an important and careful narrative. We have so much here that needs to be discussed and Nova’s character creating a momentary glimpse into what her world is like. I personally don’t think I have read a book with a nonverbal main character, and while I have had the basic understanding of what autism entails this book brought so much more to the forefront. It also shines a light on the foster care system and diagnosis of autism in the 1980s, where misconceptions and blind eyes were more present than not. We get to know Nova through two different narratives, the first is the general story where we are moving forward as she gets to know her new foster family and school and the second in a set of letters to her older sister Bridget which serve to show her true voice. I truly love Nova. She has such a passion for space exploration, and watching her grow in her new environment was so wonderful.
It also focuses on grief and loss in a way that was unexpected, but all too relatable. Loss is something that kids can sometimes not fully grasp, it’s too large a feeling and too alien to really handle it in a way where full understanding is there all at once. And some times we/they learn what it really means from those events that forever imprint themselves into your life. For Nova it’s the Challenger, for me it was 9/11 and Columbia. I never expected to read a book that managed to come close to that overwhelming, crushing understanding of loss; and as a result, I spent quite a lot of time after reading this crying.
Words can not express how much I truly love this book, and I don’t think I am capable of typing a review that fully expresses how much I want others to read it, but believe me when I say that this is one to read. I recommend it a hundred times over.