Planet Earth is Blue

Ages: 8 - 12Publisher: Penguin Random House Author: Nicole Panteleakos


This debut novel for middle-schoolers is endearing, funny, heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s the kind of joyful book that can change young lives, the kind of novel that can turn young students into lifetime voracious readers.

Planet Earth is Blue is the story of Nova, a 12-year-old severely autistic girl who rarely speaks, though readers get to hear her thoughts quite clearly. Nova communicates with her older sister, Bridget, whom she has lived with in many foster care homes for years, some good, some not. Their father was killed in the Vietnam War; their mother too mentally ill to take care of them.

Bridget protects her little sister and tells everyone Nova is “a thinker, not a talker.” And Nova does think deeply, which is part of the beauty of this novel. But she has a hard time figuring out a lot of things in her life—such as where their mother went, or why she is so often being tested. She struggles with the world she lives in—and, now, especially she struggles with why Bridget suddenly isn’t with her at their new and caring foster home.

The story takes place in 1986, and Nova and Bridget had been counting down the days until the Challenger space mission launch. Nova loves space and astronauts and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic, planet-traveling novella The Little Prince. Now Nova is hoping Bridget will come back to watch the launch with her as she promised. You may recall Challenger was one of NASA’s most tragic missions. Ultimately, Nova learns a lot about life, family and herself.

Author Nicole Panteleakos is a young and talented writer who, with sensitivity and courage, strong and memorable characters and a compelling plot, has invited readers into the mind of autistic Nova.

Like those who witnessed the tragic launch of Challenger and will never forget it, readers of Planet Earth is Blue will never forget this book.

Don Oldenburg ©2019 Parents’ Choice

A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of “The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion” (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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