Taking Off

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos is Nova’s story. Nova is autistic and mostly nonverbal.

Nova and her older sister Bridget have spent most of their lives in and out of various foster families. They are between families when Nova is taken in by the West family. It seems that Bridget has run off with a boyfriend, but promised Nova that she would return to watch the Challenger take off. Nova is extremely interested in everything to do with space travel, and it is a special bond shared between the sisters.

The story follows Nova’s adjustment to a new school, friends and family. Each chapter is followed by Nova’s letter to her sister which essentially recaps the events in her voice (this was a bit redundant for me). Nova has always been underestimated and misunderstood because of her disability, but now she has a supportive family and an appropriate school placement on her side. Bridget is the only missing piece.

Spoiler: Events countdown to the ill-fated Challenger launch. The aftermath of the launch forces Nova to face the fact that her sister will never come back. This is a touching story that can build empathy and understanding about autism.

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