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I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives
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I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  15,227 ratings  ·  2,877 reviews
The true story of an all-American girl and a boy from an impoverished city in Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.

It started as an assignment. Everyone in Caitlin's class wrote to an unknown student somewhere in a distant place. All the other kids picked countries like France or Germany, but when Caitlin saw Zimbabwe written on the board, it so
Hardcover, 392 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Skye Tandy My 8th Graders had to read it as their summer assigned reading. Most of them enjoyed the book, though they were a little put off by the very frank com…moreMy 8th Graders had to read it as their summer assigned reading. Most of them enjoyed the book, though they were a little put off by the very frank commentary by the woman in regards to "growing up" female (I have boobs!; boycraziness). But, that is part of life, is it not? And that is a huge part of what makes this book so relevant and worth reading. There are two instances of "bull****" and a couple of times where variations of "pissed" are used. There was tremendous opportunity for conversation in regards to tragedy, "what ifs", the meaning of friendship, priorities, fear, etc. I could go on and on. (less)
Amelia Eve It is an easier read but the content I would say for 5th grade and higher~

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 ·  15,227 ratings  ·  2,877 reviews

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Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What if everyone in the world with a little extra to share could be like the Stoicsitz family? And what if all those who were academically gifted could work as diligently as Martin Ganda? Imagine the possibilities. I loved this story and plan to recommend it to the English Language Arts Department as required summer reading for upper classmen at the high school where I am employed as the library/media specialist.
Joyce Yattoni
I seriously could not put this book down. A true story of a 12 year old American girl who befriends Martin a young boy from Zimbabwe, Africa through a school assignment - being pen pals. It is a story of growth, diversity, prejudice, discipline. I cried through many parts at the descriptions of the poverty that many Zimbabwean people live through generation after generation. Many live without enough food, shelter or basic necessities like shoes and clean water. I was awed at Caitlyn's growth. A ...more
L A i N E Y
As a kid who was super excited when my English teacher introduced me to Pen Pal, it’s a sure thing this book’s premise going to intrigue the hell out of me!

And considering my own (failed) attemp at it in middle school, to read about such successful one that resulted in life-changing friendships like this totally left me speechless.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is a "true story" of two penpals that end up with a longterm friendship, with the American's family helping the Zimbabwean finish school. I didn't realize while reading that it was a true story, and found the writing a bit basic. I'd expect that from the letters (which by the way do not sound like the children writing them) but not from the narrative. Also something doesn't quite sit well with me, despite doing a little poking around and seeing that the two penpals are alive and well, sever ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it liked it
The rarest of pen-pal friendships: one that actually stuck.

Alifirenka and Ganda tell their story in alternating chapters. It's the story of their pen-pal relationship but also their individual lives; as Ganda describes growing up in a slum in Zimbabwe, Alifirenka provides the contrast of a middle-class family in the northeastern U.S.

It's clear that a lot of work went into the book, and generally speaking it's a fluid, compelling story. Ganda does a better job of integrating the non-pen-pal detai
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Finally Have the time to flesh out my review.

I stand by my previous opening statement, "It was awesome". I mean it not in the colloquial sense, but by it's original meaning i.e, when I finished this book I was overwhelmed with admiration, and joy. This is a testament to the strength of true friendship and love.

This story serves as proof for the inherent goodness of humanity regardless of status or wealth, and that hope can light a path through the darkness into the light - light that is happin
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Who would have thought nonfiction YA would be classified as a page turner? Once I started, I had a hard time stopping this story. I was utterly engrossed and thrilled with the message about how one act of kindness can change another person's life, all true in this story.

This would make a great read for older kids and teens, especially those who need a sense of what others live like around the world. I was brought to tears several times and will be recommending this one for a long time.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebooks-library
This is a pretty good read about Caitlin and Martin who became best friends after becoming pen pals through a school assignment and how Caitlin tries to help her new friend from Zimbabwe get through school and more. Want to read more? Read this for yourself and find out.

This is a pretty good read about friendship, pen pals, and more. If you love pen pals and stories about friendship, check this book out at your local library and wherever books are sold.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
Let me start by a heads-up; make sure you have a tissue box within reach when you read this book.
I am sure this book moves you to the core and leaves you in a sobbing mess - more than once for sure.

I honestly don't know where to begin my review. I once read my blogging friend and two of my friends raved about this book and I knew this book is moving. But did I know it would be THIS moving? The answer is NO. I have never, ever, shed as many tears as I did this time over a book. Never.
Simply put
Jan 22, 2016 added it
Shelves: nf, young-adult
So this has a bit of a white-savior overtone to it, which I'm not sure you can get around with this type of story. But reading Martin's story and watching Caitlin realize her vast privilege was really touching. I liked it a lot.
Lisa Ainsworth
Jan 31, 2016 rated it did not like it
Sorry but no. I guess stereotypes are okay as long as they are politically correct. Besides that the writing is terrible. I agree with other reviews that the story is not plausible. Were Caitlin's parents so out of touch with Caitlin (& the planet) that they had no idea that Martin may have financial problems? Her parents travel to Europe but are ignorant regarding third world issues?

This is a community read for middle school students so I expected an easy read and boy it is! The book is a clic
Stephanie  Weatherly
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book! It is a perfect read for middle school kids about a relationship that formed between two pen pals from across the world. Great story about hope, perseverance, and growing up. Definitely recommend.
Mugren Ohaly
Jun 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018
Childish and cringeworthy. I gave up a quarter of the way through. I should also mention how fake it sounded, as if one person was writing both sides.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"People are so scared of what they don't know."

Now, the challenge is to face your fears and change someone's life. This book shows that it is possible.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the 2018 One Book/One Community read in our schools and town, and I really enjoyed it! It is the first nonfiction choice since we started this program.

It is the story of two middle school-aged students, Caitlyn from Pennsylvania and Martin from Zimbabwe, who become pen pals. They each learn of the other's life and style of living in America and Africa, and both are surprised! As Caitlyn learns more and more about Martin's poor standard of living and struggle to get an education -- even
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
The Wardein family Christmas book club selection by Campbell. I very much appreciated listening to this book during the Christmas season even though it has nothing to do with Christmas.

A 7th grade Pennsylvanian middle/upper class (Caitlin) girl gets a pen pal (Martin) in Zimbabwe. Martin turns out to be a very poor and smart young man. The two promise to continue to write no matter what goes on in their lives. The disparity in their lives is what brings them together. They think of each other a
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw a teenage co-worker reading this book in the breakroom a couple of years ago, and she recommended it to me. It is the true story of how a young girl from Pennsylvania and a boy from Zimbabwe became first pen pals then lifelong friends. Carolina's family adopted Martin's family, sent them clothing, money, paid tuition so Martin could go to school and, well I don't want to give away the whole story.
Let's just say, it has a wonderful ending, Martin and Caitlin are as close as any brother and
Jun 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Skip by: NY Times Book Review
The true story of an upper middle class white girl from suburban Pennsylvania becoming a pen pal with an impoverished black boy from a secondary city in Zimbabwe and their unlikely friendship. Martin does not want to tell Caitlin how poor he and his family are nor the deplorable living conditions, but with the support of Caitlin and her family, he is able to overcome long odds (view spoiler). The story is heartwarming, but t ...more
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
This was a great book, and it brought tears to my eyes several times. If every student in a developed country could be matched with a pen pal from the developing world, I think students would truly empathize and understand the realities of the rest of the world so much more.

I visited Zimbabwe in 2008. My guidebook warned there would be very little food to be found in grocery stores, so I packed up tons of ramen noodles and knorr pasta sides in my backpack. There were no buses going into Zimbabwe
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
True story that follows American Caitlyn and Martin from Zimbabwe during their middle school years through the challenge of entering college. It began as an English assignment in which Caitlyn could choose a pen pal from another country. She was intrigued by the country of Zimbabwe so Martin and her were matched up. A long distance connection was immediately formed between the two that could not be broken with the many ups and downs of their lives. Told in alternating chapters with actual excerp ...more
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a good book!
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
There is so much that is commendable in this story. It all starts with two students agreeing to be pen pals. One lives in Zimbabwe and the other outside of Pennsylvania. They have very little in common. One comes from an upper middle class family while the other is living in abject poverty.

What touched me the most in this book was the innate goodness of the two people and the kindness and humanity that was displayed. These pen pals connected on a deeper level. Awareness was key for the girl. She
Josephine Sorrell

Our story begins in a Pennsylvania classroom in 1997, a life-altering moment for Caitlin Alifirenka. Caitlin is a typical 12-year-old American girl, her thoughts focused on in what she should wear to school more so than what she is learning in school. One day her teacher gives her students an assignment to write to a pen pal. Caitlin chooses a person from Zimbabwe because the country sounds exotic and it starts with a Z.

The pen pal she’s matched with is a studious, cheerful, bright 14-year-old b
Lauren Lanz
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lauren by: My English teacher
“People are so scared of what they don't know.”

Heart wrenching- the memoir of an American girl and a Zimbabwean boy whose lives were changed through letters. In seventh grade, Caitlin’s class was assigned the task of writing a letter to an unknown pen pal in a foreign country of their choosing. Across the world, Martin was lucky enough to have received a letter at all. There were only ten letters -and fifty students in his class. Receiving Caitlin’s letter was just the beginning of what was
Diane Yannick
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great story about the friendship between two adolescents, Caitlin in PA and Martin in Zimbabwe. It’s told through letters written as part of a penpal program in Caitlin’s school. Gradually Martin confides his family’s extreme poverty to Caitlin and she begins to look at her privileged life through different eyes.

She realizes that small amounts of money can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Without her family’s help Martin, an extremely motivated and gifted student would have been unab
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it

This was a quick read that was aided by the alternating chapters of each of the pen pals. I love the idea behind this book and I have no doubt that it could be extremely inspirational for students. The story has a great message and Martin's story and personality really jump off the pages. It also is a great avenue to show students the difficult situations that others have overcome to reach their dreams. There are just a couple of things that kept me from ranking this much higher. There were a
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The purest book to ever exist. This book follows two school children (I think they start off age 12) who become pen pals. One lives a privileged life in America, and the other an impoverished life in Africa. But they start to develop a strong and meaningful friendship.
What I liked:
-I think we got a great balance of both Caitlin and Martin’s perspectives, and a balance of letters and actual information on their day to day lives. It was written in such an accessible and fun way.
-Caitlin and Mar
Brandi Rae Fong
This was interesting, and something that could be eye opening for many teens.

Caitlin does come across as a bit shallow at times (boys, best friends, the drama that comes with it), and in some ways that causes her side of the story to feel not as well written. However, she fully admits in hindsight how narrow her world view was at first, and I do appreciate her not trying to change who she was back then.

Overall, Martin's side of the story ends up being the more compelling half of the book, but t
Fern Adams
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Honestly this book made me pretty uncomfortable. On the surface it is set out to be interesting, educational and worth reading. One teenager in America and one teenager in Zimbabwe become pen pals and this sets out to explore their correspondence and where it led. However in reality I found it quite western centric and became extremely uncomfortable with the white saviour/ white complex narrative throughout. It just didn’t sit right. Also were Caitlin and her family so naive about what life migh ...more
Cynthia Egbert
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
I am such a nut about letter writing and this is a perfect example of how letters can change the world. What a sweet story of friendship that became love that became a family and a young man was saved from a hopeless life of poverty and he, in turn, saved his entire family and others. This is how are lives should be lived, working to do all that we can to improve life for others and in the process improving our own lives in immeasurable ways. Hurray for letter writing and journaling and for thes ...more
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Caitlin Alifirenka (Stoicsitz) was born in 1985 in Chestnuthill, Pennsylvania to Anne Neville and Richard Stoicsitz. Caitlin started corresponding with Martin Ganda, her Zimbabwean pen pal, in 1997 which led to a life long friendship. After graduating from North Penn High School in 2003, Caitlin attended Abington Memorial Hospital's Dixon School of Nursing and now works as an Emergency Room Regist ...more

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