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

Awards
  • 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

and

Liz’s Twitter

 

 

 

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© Chris Peeler 2013