Cover Image: Planet Earth Is Blue

Planet Earth Is Blue

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Member Reviews

The launch of the Challenger dominates Nova's thoughts. It's the first time that they are sending a teacher up into space and teaching lessons to children everywhere, including Nova. Nova adores space and has always taken on the world with her stuffed bear and her sister Bridget. Ever since this new foster home, Bridget has been gone, but Nova knows that she will be back in time for the challenger to launch.

Thank you, Nicole Panteleakos, for such a powerful novel. The main character, Nova, is in foster care along with being severely autistic and nonverbal. Nicole Panteleakos did such an incredible job of writing this character into the heart of a reader. I say this a lot BUT this is a book that should be in EVERY classroom. This is the book a lot of our students need to read!
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It is 1986. 12 year old Nova Vezina is anxiously awaiting for two big events- the launching of the space shuttle Challenger and reuniting with her older sister Bridget. Bridget ran away from their last foster home and Nova is adjusting to living with her new foster family, the Wests. 

While Nova's school reports consistently included phrases such as "cannot read" or "does not speak," her older sister Bridget always disagreed stating that Nora "is a thinker, not a talker." Bridget has been Nova's strongest advocate recognizing and fostering Nova's intelligence.   With only 10 days before the Challenger launch,  Nova is clinging on to Bridget's promise that she and Nova will reunite and watch this historic event together. 

I love the format of the novel, which alternates from third person to first person.  Nova's first hand account is written as letters to Bridget, which everyone else calls "scribbles."  Since Nora is autistic and nonverbal, her letters are extremely compelling sharing her deep thoughts and feelings on everything from her new foster family, new school and friends as well as past memories of her mother and Bridget.  Reading Nova's letters is truly gut-wrenching because she shares her frustrations that people cannot understand her and how desperately she misses Bridget.  While my heart ached for Nova, Nova's new foster family gave me hope. Francine, Billy, and their college age daughter Josie take the time to truly get to know Nova recognizing her potential rather than her limitations.  

From the very first page, Nova's story pulled me in and I couldn't put the novel down. While I knew the outcome of the Challenger launch, debut author Nicole Panteleakos' well crafted novel kept me wondering until almost the very end.  A heartbreaking yet uplifting story, Planet Earth is Blue reminds us of our universal need for love, respect, and understanding.  I am a firm believer that books have the power to change you and make you a better person; Planet Earth is Blue is that story, for we can all do better in showing compassion, patience, and tolerance towards others.
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Demonstrates so well how a child with a disability that inhibits her communication skills might feel . I was in suspense the entire time since I of course knew what was going to happen to the Challenger and was worried about how Nova might react. I did NOT see the other tragedy/plot twist coming.Very emotional read.
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Oh this wonderful wonderful book! I cried, laughed, made faces and just could honestly read this book again! Thank you Netgalley for a free ARC IN exchange for an honest review!
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Planet Earth is Blue is a book about a twelve-year-old girl named Nova. She is autistic and nonverbal, but her sister Bridget always described her as “a thinker not a talker.” She loves her older sister, her sister always protected her in all of the foster homes that they had been in over the years. Her sister made sure that Nova knew that they would always have each other, even if they weren’t able to find a permanent home to stay in. Bridget would always talk to Nova about space, and she even took Nova into space a few times! They were both looking forward to the Challenger launch. Even though Bridget has been temporarily separated from Nova, she promised Nova that they would be reunited in time for the launch. Now, Nova has to spend time in a new foster home by herself, and she is counting down the days to the launch when she will see her sister again.

This book places the reader into the shoes of a severely autistic girl. She is not “retarded,” even though characters in this book may call her that. This is the 80s, they don’t understand her, so they just placed her into a box. Her new foster mother is starting to understand this. She’s starting to understand that her new daughter is more capable than her social workers and former teachers believed her to be. Bridget knew that her sister was more capable, but no one paid attention to a young girl in foster care. Nova doesn’t know who truly has her best interests at heart anymore. Her sister has left, and her new mother seems nice. But other new mothers have seemed nice before and still sent them on their way.

My favorite part of this book was hearing about Nova going to school. It wasn’t my favorite because it was the happiest part of the book, but it was my favorite because it was the most realistic and relatable, even though this book took place in the 1980s. I had never truly thought about how public school must be for someone who has autism until I personally met someone who was autistic and in a Special Education program. Although she attended one of the best schools in our state, the Special Ed program was a mess of teachers who didn’t want to teach and students who were just trying their best to learn. Even though some teachers think that the kids are able to actually take classes, others believe that the students should just play games all day. Nova wants to be able to have chapter books read to her, like her sister used to do. When she is in school, sometimes her time is just wasted when teachers want her to point out colors or play little games. She seems like she isn’t getting the answers right, but she knows the answers. Sometimes the noise of the room and the building are just too much and she mishears the question. I was rooting for Nova to succeed in school the entire time, and I love how the author shows that the kids would befriend one another and protect one another in the school.

Usually for books I also have a least favorite part of the novel, but I literally have nothing to complain about with this book. Nicole weaves Nova’s past and present to give you a complete look at this little girl’s life. You may go from a scene where Nova is struggling in school to learning about her birth mother to learning about her former foster homes. I read this book all in one sitting, I just couldn’t put it down. I had to know more about this girl’s life, and I had to know if she would succeed.

This entire story just truly touched me. I even cried at the end, and I very rarely cry when I read novels! This book is perfect for YA readers and adult readers alike. I wish that there was a sequel to this novel, to see what happens as Nova grows up. For now, I am so glad that I got the chance to meet her.

I received a copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.
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While this book was heartbreaking, the feeling it left me with was ultimately one of incredible hope and joy--I'm in awe of the author's ability to pull that off! It's a truly beautiful story, demonstrating the value of every human life, and the need to look a little harder at the ones we stereotype, overlook, or avoid.
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Wow - what a fantastic story about a young girl with autism. Although non-verbal, the reader has a birds eye view of how Nova thinks about herself and the world. She misses her sister whose story is also heartfelt. Planet Earth is Blue made me reconsider how people communicate with each other. Highly recommend!
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I had the opportunity to read a NetGalley digital ARC of this historical fiction novel in exchange for a review. I shudder to think that this story, which is set in January of 1986, is historical fiction. I was a sophomore in high school when the tragedy of the space shuttle Challenger happened. I was sitting down in my geometry class, and the teacher, who had just seen the explosion on TV, came in the room and told us what had happened. 
The events of this book have that disaster as a backdrop. At the beginning of the story, readers are introduced to Nova. Nova is twelve years old and autistic. She is nonverbal (unable to speak) and has a difficult time handling different sounds, textures, tastes, and other sensory experiences. She is in a new foster family, after spending the last seven years of her life in and out of many different homes with her older sister, Bridget.
Readers are unsure of the whereabouts of Bridget, as we slowly get the story from Nova’s point of view. Nova is alone and scared. She’s been labeled by her social caseworker as mentally retarded and her new caregivers are trying to learn the best ways to help her. She starts her new school as a special ed sixth grader, even though she was previously halfway through seventh grade.
Through her thoughts and letters to her sister, readers learn that she and her sister frequently pretended to go to the moon as a means of escape from a traumatic situation with their mother. Through the years of different foster homes, she and her sister paid close attention to the NASA space missions. And when Christa McAuliffe was chosen to be the first teacher in space for the ill-fated Challenger mission, they followed the news stories very closely. Bridget had always promised Nova that she would find Nova and watch the shuttle launch with her, no matter what. 
The author does a great job of being true to the time period. As a Gen-Xer, I am always happy to walk down memory lane and the cultural references resonated with me. But I think it’s also a story that will resonate with young readers today. I’m not sure how much kids of this generation are aware of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, but there is a wealth of resources available on the internet to give them the background knowledge they might need.
Kids with autism were much less understood thirty-five years ago, than they are today. Young readers will be able to experience Nova’s frustrations with not being able to share her thoughts with people and being labeled and marginalized for being different. And even though, more is known today, marginalized kids are still treated unfairly and even bullied. This book might help kids empathize and even consider how they could help kids like Nova become full participants in school and in their communities.
This would be a great book to share with middle grade kids, grades five and up.
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Ms. Panteleakos will be someone I watch for years to come. She has perfectly captured her characters and the way people react to children with autism. Sadly she has also captured some of the harsh realities of the foster care system and how readily people jump to conclusions regarding children with autism. Climbing into the mind of a child with autism is something every person but especially every educator and social worker should do so that we/they are more understanding and compassionate with differently abled children. And for this reason I will highly recommend that every single school staff member I know read this book every August before returning to the building.
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Omfg ya'll need this book. Planet Earth is Blue is AMAZING.

Don't like space or read middle grade? DOESN'T MATTER. Trust me and check it all out down here 👇.

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.
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This covers the bases well; Challenger accident, making it a good historical fiction book, foster care- sadly will be related to by too many of our children, and autism.  Nova is a 12 year old non-verbal autistic child in foster care. She loved everything NASA and space. Being in numerous homes, along with her older sister, over too many years. Her sister promises to return  to watch the Challenger launch with her. Nova is a very naive little girl surviving in an impossible, to her, world. She's so hopeful in the face of adversity. The reader will want so badly for this young girl to find stability and happiness; a forever family of her own. It's well written and the author, who has Aspergers, may offer a keen insight into Nova's world. Great story.
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It's a wonderful, important thing, giving voice to marginalized characters. It's an awesome responsibility too, especially when you give voice to someone who has no voice of her own. We often wonder what goes on in the mind of a non-verbal person. Panteleakos suggests a complex and troubled inner dialogue, a tenuous grasp on reality and a frustration with a world that doesn't try to understand. Nova's story is hopeful and heartbreaking. For the reader familiar with the Challenger disaster, knowing what is coming, the ways Nova's hopes will be dashed, that things will end so terribly just when it is all turning out so well, is compelling. With an ending that speaking to the hope for better things to come, it's an all around solid read and joins the ranks of such books as Mockingbird and Wonder.
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I was pretty impressed with Planet Earth is Blue. It tells the story of a character whose life has been full of challenges. The only constant was their sister who was always there to hang with them and help them out. With them gone for the first time in years Nova is by herself. I won’t say it will be for everyone but I can see most people having a good time reading this book.
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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.
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Planet Earth Is Blue is a heartwrenching portrayal of a little girl who can't tell the world who she truly is. The book is set in the 80s and starts ten days before the fateful launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The story centers around Nova, a non-verbal autistic girl. She struggles to show the world that she is more than they think she is---that though she can't speak well, she is intelligent and curious. It's a portrayal of profound autism that we don't typically see, and one that would help any reader to understand someone who is different. Nova doesn't think like the average 12-year-old; she can't always respond the way a typical 12-year-old would respond; she can't do everything her peers can do, but she is still a vibrant and worthy human being. I think anyone could benefit from seeing the world through her eyes. The author is on the spectrum herself, and she worked with autistic children, and you can tell that she brings her own love, strength and compassion to Nova.

Nova's foster family loves her and believes in her in a way that the "system" has never been able to do, but Nova still yearns for her older sister, who has told her that she will return for her for the launch of the Challenger, no matter what (Nova's sister shared her love of space exploration with Nova and fostered that love in Nova herself). The book is a countdown to the launch in many ways---and a countdown to Nova's emotional breakthrough (prepare to be heartbroken for her!).

I highly recommend this book to anyone---adults and children alike will learn from Nova and her story of strength and resilience in a world that doesn't understand her.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Rockstar Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
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Well, y’all, I was a blubbering mess by the time I finished PLANET EARTH IS BLUE! Hoo, boy! This is one of those books that you can easily read in one sitting (which I did), but which you also want to draw out and savor every moment of because of the incredibly beautiful story (which I also did). You will absolutely fall in love with Nova: her voice, her passion for outer space and excitement for the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, and her dedication to and love for her older sister, Bridget. 

Nova and Bridget have had a difficult life, being in foster care since Nova was 5 and Bridget was 10. Nova is severely autistic and nonverbal, and unfortunately she has been called the “R-word” by far too many adults in her short life. Bridget, however, has always understood Nova and has never talked down to her the way too many adults and other kids do; my favorite quote from Bridget, which Nova repeats often to herself, is, “My sister’s not dumb. She’s a thinker, not a talker.” But now that Nova is 12 and they finally have a shot at what seems like the perfect foster family--who could actually become a forever family--Bridget is missing and Nova is alone. As she counts down to the launch of the space shuttle Challenger and Christa McAuliffe becoming the First Teacher in Space, Nova writes letters to Bridget, growing more nervous by the day when Bridget doesn’t show up, even though she swore she’d be right by Nova’s side for the launch.

I was a child of 11, in 6th grade, when the Challenger disaster happened, and can *vividly* remember the excitement surrounding McAuliffe and the shuttle’s launch. We sat in our classrooms, into each of which was wheeled a television set, and we anxiously awaited liftoff. We cheered, just as Nova and her classmates do, for that first minute and thirteen seconds, and then...it was disbelief, agony, grief. For my generation, this was *the* event that we will always remember (just as the assassination of JFK was for my parents and 9/11 was for the generation after mine). Reading about Nova and Bridget’s excitement for the launch brought it all rushing back, so when the time came for actual liftoff, I was already crying. The shuttle disaster is a galvanizing event for Nova too, but in a different way. Your heart will be touched, cracked a bit or perhaps even broken, yet ultimately the story ends on such a hopeful note that your heart will once again feel full. 

Nova is one of the most special characters I’ve read in a long time, and this beautiful novel is one I would highly recommend to anyone and everyone. I am immediately passing on the gorgeous copy the publisher sent me to my dear friend who has an autistic son in second grade. I truly feel richer for having read PLANET EARTH IS BLUE, and I hope you will pick it up and feel the same.

RATING: 5 luminous stars!

**Disclosure: I received a finished copy from the publisher for purposes of this blog tour. This review is voluntary on my part and reflects my honest rating and review of the book.
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Nova and her sister, Bridget, have been bounced around foster homes. Through it all, they have had each other. They have dreamed about going into space and landing on the moon. So, they are both excited about the launch of the Challenger.  If an ordinary teacher from New Hampshire can go into space, so can they. But when Bridget runs away and Nova is put in a new foster home, things change.  Everyone thinks that just because Nova is autistic and non-verbal, she is illiterate. Now that Bridget's gone,  there's no one to defend her, no one to explain that "she's a thinker, not a talker." Bridget promised she would be back for the launch of the Challenger, and Nova is counting down the days.
Panteleakos gives a realistic portrayal of how autistic children were treated prior to the inventions of helpful electronic devices. Nova's inability to fully express her emotions and intelligence is devastating. Her love and longing for the return of her sister is heart-wrenching. You can feel the hope and the excitement that Nova feels as she awaits the day of the Launch, the day Bridget will come back. Nova does not follow the usual tropes of being super inspiring because of her disability. Her disability does not define her either. Her foster parents do not pity her. She is a well-developed character who will stay with the reader after the last page is turned.
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I remember when the Challenger exploded.  It is one of those things that you don't forget, just as earlier generations remember when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, or when Pearl Harbor was bombed.  It etches into your mind. So, going into this book, with Nova getting all excited about the Challenger launch, you know there is going to be disappointment. You know it is going to be sad. You know it will be horrible when it happens.

And it would be great if we could protect Nova from this horrible event, but you can't.

The book is written in two voices. One is a third person version, and then there are the letters she writers to her sister, telling her what is going on in her life. Nova and Bridget are in foster care, and keep getting moved around, but they always have each other, and Bridget has promised to watch the Challenger launch with Nova. 

This book made me cry, which is actually a good thing. This book also made me care.  Nova has autism, and in the 1980s, it was less understood, and because she is non-verbal they think that she doesn't understand, that she is mentally challenge (or as they would say retarded).

The author has aspbergers, a form of autism, so knows how it feels. She knows how Nova feels, and she understands how hard it is, when the world is too noisy, and you don't want to be touched.

Wonderful book.  I love the foster parents who care so much about her. I love how Nova likes to play with toys, and make up stories, and I love how she loves outer space.

Highly recommended.  We all need to know how others feel, even if they are nonverbal.

Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
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Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this title for review. All opinions are my own.

This was one of those rare middle grade novels that make me remember why I love them so very much. I have had my eye on this title for quite a while, and have been in love with the cover ever since I first saw it. I am so, so excited to say that this one lived up to all of my expectations and then more. This is the book for the canon currently filled with titles such as Wonder, Out of My Mind, and Fish in a Tree . Nova, a mainly nonverbal autistic girl in the 1980s is in foster home and anxiously awaiting both the Challenger launch and the return of her older sister Bridget, who she has been separated from. Told in omniscient third person chapters, intermixed with first person letters that Nova sends to Bridget, this is a fascinating, heartbreaking, uplifting, and wholly amazing look at what it is like to be someone who is misunderstood, and how at our core, we are all the same. We want the same things: to be seen, to be heard, to be understood, to be valued. 

I can't recommend this book enough. I will be readily purchasing it for my own school library collection and talking it up to every educator/librarian I know. It is also enough for Panteleakos to be on my radar especially since there is word that she has another MG title coming in 2020. This is a first purchase type of title.
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What a beautiful, heartbreaking, wonderful, transformative book! This story grabs your heartstrings with its heartfelt honesty. Nova is autistic and nonverbal, in this story she writes verbal letters to her big sister, Bridget, telling Bridget everything since the two were separated. Nova shares how she's living in a new foster family who is really nice and all about her new school where no one reads her scribbles like Bridget could. We learn that Bridget knew how to use storytelling and Nova's passion for space to reach and calm Nova. For example, when they were living with an abusive mother as well as in other foster situations and schools. Nova holds fast to Bridget's promise that Bridget will come back to Nova in time for the Challenger launch. But the launch comes and goes. And Nova will have to face the truth... And it will make you cry like a baby. At least it did for me. Now I feel completely drained but in awe of this author's beautiful storytelling.
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