I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch

Courtesy of FCPS TLC

“I’d never heard of Zimbabwe. But something about the way the name looked up on the blackboard intrigued me. It was exotic, and difficult to pronounce. It was also the last country in a long list that Mrs. Miller had written in chalk. She asked each student in my seventh-grade English class to pick one place for a pen pal program our school was starting that year.

Alfirenka, Caitlin and Ganda, Martin; with Welch, Liz. I will always write back: How one letter changed two lives.  Little, Brown and Company, 2015. 387 pages. Hardcover. $18.00, ISBN 978-0-316-24131-1

From School Library Journal courtesy of Amazon.com

Gr 6 Up—The true story of two young pen pals who forge a life-altering connection. In 1997, Caitlin, a typical 12-year-old girl from a middle class American family, began writing to Martin, a studious 14-year-old from a Zimbabwe slum. In her letters, Caitlin described her life, which consisted of shopping trips, quarrels with friends, and problems at school. Martin was initially far more circumspect in his responses. Inflation had rocketed in Zimbabwe, and even finding money for postage was a struggle for the boy. Staying in school, which required paying costly fees, became merely a dream. Eventually, Martin revealed the harsh realities of his life to Caitlin, who began sending money and gifts. What started as chatty letters turned into a lifeline for Martin and his family, as Caitlin and her parents helped the boy stay in school and achieve his goal of studying at an American university. This is a well-written, accessible story that will open Western adolescents’ eyes to life in developing countries. Told in the first person, with chapters alternating between Caitlin’s and Martin’s points of view, this title effectively conveys both of these young people’s perspectives. Caitlin’s early chapters, however, in which she discusses friendship and boyfriend woes, feel somewhat superficial compared with Martin’s genuinely troubled life. While these chapters provide an effective contrast between the two teens’ lives, they may discourage some readers from continuing with what becomes a strong and inspiring story. VERDICT A useful addition to most collections and an eye-opening look at life in another culture.—Michelle Anderson, Tauranga City Libraries, New Zealand

Want to hear Caitlin and Martin discuss their book? Bloomberg has a great interview.

Bloomberg Interview

Bloomberg Interview

  • 2015 Parents’ Choice Book Awards: Nonfiction, Silver
  • 2016 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 6–8
  • 2015 Cybils Awards Nomination, Young Adult Nonfiction


Courtesy of Amazon.com

Liz Welch (image courtesy of Amazon.com)

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Caitlin Alifirenka (image courtesy of Amazon.com)

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Martin Ganda (image courtesy of Amazon.com)









Caitlin’s Twitter

Martin’s Twitter


Liz’s Twitter





The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur

Cover of "The Rose That Grew from Concret...

Cover of The Rose That Grew from Concrete courtesy of Amazon.com

A collection of poems written by Tupac Shakur that bear his heart and soul. This collection lets the reader know what Tupac stood for.

Shakur, Tupac. The Rose that Grew from Concrete.  Pocket Books. 1999. 151 pages. paperback. $16.00, ISBN 978-0-671-02845-

Tupac Shakur, rapper, actor, and poet, died in 1996 at the age of 25. The Rose that Grew from Concrete is a collection of poems written by Tupac from 1989-1991, a time before he became famous. The title comes from the first poem in the book, a poem that he wrote at a writing circle with his friend and later agent, Leila Steinberg. It is an autobiographical poem about Tupac illustrating the obstacles he had overcome. The collection illustrates the many emotions of Tupac as well as what he stood for. Each poem is shown in Tupac’s own handwriting. The collection includes a poem to his friend, Jada Pinkett, several poems for his mother, and many for his girlfriends. Many poems were written that reflected his social consciousness. The last poem in the book, are his parting thoughts in the event of his death.

I recommend this non-fiction book for all readers aged 12 and up. It is a look into the heart and mind of Tupac but it also gives the reader pause to stop and think about their own emotions.

Link to Amazon.com

Link to Worldcat.org

Available in:




Interview with Leila Steinberg  (2PAC’S Former Manager)  

Music Album with Tupac’s poems read by hip-hop personalities.

Book Trailer:

Courtesy of YouTube.com

Interview with Tupac Shakur:

Courtesy of YouTube.com

© Chris Peeler 2013