Planet Earth is Blue
Nova and her older sister Bridget have been in and out of foster care. Nova really dislikes change, but she trusts Bridget to keep her promise that she will always find Nova and look out for her. Nova is especially looking forward to the launch of the U.S. space shuttle, Challenger, because Bridget promised they would watch it together, and Nova is fascinated by outer space. However, there are several problems. First, Nova rarely talks, so even though her newest foster family is nice, they don't know what she wants or thinks, and they aren't sure what she understands. Second, Nova has to start a new school, and she hates that. Third, Bridget has been gone for a long time, but she promised she would always come back.
This is a compelling book; great for book clubs and discussion groups around themes of empathy. Nova is described as having autism and being "severely mentally retarded," and the author has notes about both at the end of the book. The detailed depictions of Nova's frustrations ring true - from being overwhelmed by sounds while the new teacher is testing her knowledge of the alphabet to having strong feelings brought on by memories or excitement and not knowing how to express them. Many readers will appreciate Nova's challenge with the disconnect between what she understands and how others treat her.
The book does have some Perfect Adult Syndrome, in that there are people who are unfailingly patient and supportive and solely focused on what is best for Nova, but the depiction of these characters modeling what to do isn't hammered into readers, and there are certainly plenty of imperfect adults in Nova's world to offset this. This book may also be upsetting for some readers who are sensitive to issues related to loss of family members, being in foster care, or the Challenger disaster. Tissues will be necessary.
"Nova could not concentrate on his voice and the room around her at the same time. Still she couldn't quite breathe, but she wasn't quite panicking, either. She remembered the word Francine had used with Principal Dowling: overwhelmed. That was it, Nova realized."
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