The Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos is a juvenile fiction book with a lot of heart.
Twelve-year-old Nova is a smart, curious little girl, who loves space and just happens to be severely autistic and nonverbal. She can’t wait to see the first teacher launched into space on the Challenger mission. Nova’s big sister, Bridget, has promised that they will watch the shuttle launch together but Bridget has disappeared and Nova has been placed in a new foster home.
Even though Bridget has always stood up for Nova, telling anyone who would listen that “(her) sister is a thinker, not a talker,” all of her teachers and previous foster homes have dismissed her as “mentally retarded” and unable to comprehend what people are saying. As time moves on Nova’s new school and foster family begins to see how aware she actually is. The story unfolds as Nova counts down to the launch and the moment she’ll see her sister again.
I finished this book and literally told everyone I could that they should go out and read it–child, adult, everyone. The Planet Earth is Blue is just fantastic! I’ve received some training about working with patrons on the autism spectrum recently, so this book was just so timely.
I love how Panteleakos was able to give a voice to Nova through her diary. We see the world through Nova’s eyes and we see what triggers she has even if the characters in the story Nova interacts with do not.
It was also really interesting to go back in time, really not that long ago, and see how Autism was treated. Nova’s foster mother eventually provides her with pictures and words to help her communicate and it’s amazing to see how far we have come today and how far we still have to go.
There was also the pending Challenger launch counting down throughout the story. And knowing that the Challenger explodes, there’s that bit of tension throughout the story as well. It’s a bit overshadowed by Nova and Bridget’s story but it is still quite poignant reading about classrooms of children and teachers over the nation witnessing the event live.
I honestly can’t praise this book enough. It get’s five stars from me.
That’s all for now!