Praise for I Will Always Write Back: An Indiebound Bestseller An Amazon Big Spring Book Selection 2015 * "Sensitively and candidly demonstrating how small actions can result in enormous change, this memoir of two families' transformation through the commitment and affection of long-distance friends will humble and inspire." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"The remarkable tenacity of these two souls pulled like magnets across the world by their opposite polarities - one committed to helping, the other to surviving - is deeply affecting...It's quite a little miracle of unexpected genuineness."
New York Times Book Review
"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...a strong and inspiring story...and an eye-opening look at life in another culture."
"An inspirational story...eye-opening."
"This heart-warming memoir will inspire readers to open their eyes to other cultures and realize that even the smallest of gestures can be important."
School Library Connection
"This compelling story of an unlikely friendship across continents will quiet your inner skeptic and inspire you to take a chance. Moving and uplifting."
Award-winning author and journalist Peter Godwin
"Caitlin and Martin seemed to have nothing in common--except a curiosity about the world outside their own and a willingness to reach out to each other. With a lot of postage and a lot more hope, these two pen pals changed each other's lives and the lives of everyone who knew them. An inspiring story that will change your life, too."
Patricia McCormick, author of the National Book Award finalist Sold
…the remarkable tenacity of these two souls pulled like magnets across the world by their opposite polaritiesone committed to helping, the other to survivingis deeply affecting. There is no way to read their account without feeling vulnerable to just that stab at sympathy that started their story. It is quite a little miracle of unexpected genuineness.
The New York Times Book Review - Priscilla Gilman
In 1997, a 12-year old girl from Hatfield, Pa., and a 14-year-old boy from Mutare, Zimbabwe, began a pen-pal relationship. In alternating chapters, Alifirenka and Ganda recount how their mutual curiosity led to an increasingly honest, generous correspondence. Martin loves receiving Caitlin's photo, but when she requests one in return, "My heart went from sprinting to a standstill." He sends her the only photo his family owns. Hearing BBC accounts of Zimbabwe's political and economic turmoil alarms Caitlin, but a letter written on a popsicle wrapper shocks her: "I gasped. My friend was writing me on trash." She begins to send him her babysitting money—which Martin's family uses to buy food and to pay school fees and rent—and Caitlin's family eventually decides to sponsor Martin's education. Sensitively and candidly demonstrating how small actions can result in enormous change, this memoir of two families' transformation through the commitment and affection of long-distance friends will humble and inspire. Ages 12–up. Agent: (for Alifirenka and Ganda) Sarah Burnes, Gernert Company; (for Welch) Brettne Bloom, Kneerim, Williams & Bloom. (Apr.)
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
A pen-pal correspondence between an American girl and a Zimbabwean boy blossoms into a lifelong friendship. In alternating chapters, the authors relate their story, which begins in 1997 when 12-year-old Caitlin chooses a boy in Zimbabwe for a pen-pal assignment. Caitlin's privileged life in Pennsylvania differs tremendously from Martin's hardscrabble life in millworkers' housing, where his family shares one room with another one. The top student in his class, Martin dreams of studying at an American university, but even just continuing high school in Zimbabwe seems like a long shot. Caitlin, not recognizing the extent of Martin's poverty, sends some of her babysitting money with her letters, and Martin's family uses it for food. Eventually, Caitlin and her parents become Martin's sponsors for his studies and help him obtain a scholarship to Villanova University in 2003. Written with journalist Welch, the heartfelt recollections read like an overlong magazine article. The early chapters in particular have the inauthentic feel of sentimentalized adult reminiscence, and they accentuate the difference between an American whose eyes are open to the value of international friendship and her less-enlightened classmates. The action builds toward the happy climax of Martin's arrival in the United States, but at the same time, it conveys a sense of the power of do-gooder, take-charge Americans to effect change. A feel-good, message-driven book that may appeal to adults more than teens. (photographs) (Memoir. 12 & up)