I Will Always Write Back
by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda (w/Liz Welch)
* * * * Stars (Great!)
When Caitlin was 12, she was given the opportunity to choose a pen pal from another country. She picked Zimbabwe because it sounded “like the beginning of an adventure.” She and her pen pal, Martin Ganda, began exchanging letters, and over the years became best friends despite the many miles between them and the differences in their lives. Caitlin sent Martin photos and gifts from time to time and Martin struggled to reciprocate. Although Martin was reluctant to share just how bad things were for his family (they lived in a slum, could barely afford to eat, and when Martin’s father lost his job could no longer afford Martin’s school fees), eventually he told Caitlin (and her family) the truth. Caitlin was already sending Martin money, but she realized that it was going to take more than what she was making from her babysitting jobs to really help Martin and his family. She got her parents on board and Caitlin’s mother, Anne, became Martin’s biggest cheerleader and supporter. It was Anne’s efforts that eventually helped Martin find and secure a scholarship so that he could attend college in the United States. Told in alternating chapters voiced/written by Caitlin and Martin, this is a touching story of their friendship and the powerful difference it made in the lives of those who experienced it.
Reviewed by YA Librarian