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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

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  7,499 Ratings  ·  1,577 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…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)

Community 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Jun 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Skip by: NY Times Book Review
Shelves: biography
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
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Цей відгук про те, як одна зустріч, а точніше один лист здатен змінити життя багатьох людей.
Читаючи, я не могла зупинитися, сторінки летіли одна за одною і я вкотре захоплювалася як добро однієї людини може так змінити життя іншої. Тої, яка цього потребує неймовірно.
Сльози на очах були від тих жахливих умов, в яких досі перебувають люди і їм нізвідки очікувати допомоги. І як же нам пощастило. Потрібно цінувати все те, що ми маємо.
І коли я перегорнула останню сторінку я була захоплена і радісна -
Brandi Rae
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
Ashley Elliott
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that'll change your life. I can think of very few books that I can say that about, but this is definitely one of them. It'll stick with you, regardless of whether you love it or just like it.

I think the thing I loved the most about this book is how much it opened my eyes to what life is like in developing countries. I mean, we all "know" it's different, but we don't really KNOW. I liked both perspectives equally - both Caitlin's and Martin's - and it was interesting to
Maddy G. 8B
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a great book. It was about a girl named Caitlin and a guy named Martin who are pen pals. Though the book it goes back and fourth though their point of views and talks about there life and what they are gonna say in their letters next. I thought the author and the two of them did a great job on this book.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a good book!
Sep 06, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a fantastic story about two people who bonded together over a piece of mail. It exemplifies the phrase "Treat others the way you want to be treated." At one point, it brought me down to my knees in prayer, thanking God for all of the things and people that I have in my life. It fills me with so much hope that there are some people that would sacrifice so much of themselves to make another person's life worth living. However, the writing style bothered me at certain points, especially fr ...more
Caitlin and Martin's story gives you faith that in the possibility of making a difference in the world.

I can definitely see this being a fantastic read for kids 10-12 who I think will be most inspired by and open to the push for greater engagement with the world that fill this book. They are also less likely to be scornful of its sentimentality and the simplicity of the writing style than the early teen crowd that Little, Brown seems to be targeting with its marketing push.

I know some have criti
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
Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it
In the beginning of the book I loved it. I never wanted to put it down, I was so interested in the characters and their life. The characters started getting older and I completely lost interest. I went from never wanting to put the book down to never wanting to pick it up. I never really cared for Martin's part, (even though the whole book was about helping him). As Caitlyn grew up, I didn't like her as much and I don't know why. I think it was great that Caitlyn wanted to help Martin so much an ...more
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
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kc-book-club
What a pleasant surprise. Read this for book club and absolutely became engrossed in the story of 2 teenagers worlds apart in every aspect except one, the hunger to learn about another culture. The writing was masterful, taking 2 people's story and weaving it so beautifully into a tale of learning and growing and true friendship. This is a must for all to read. Teenagers would also love this book and teach them a few things about life outside of their own world.
Jenna Buss
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow...This book was truly inspiring and captivating. I loved Caitlin and Martin's growth throughout the book, and their story made me realize how much we take for granted. The fact that it is a true story made it all the more intriguing, and I really enjoyed how their lives were forever impacted by a penpal assignment for school. I loved this book!
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
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
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was very good. It was inspirational, thoughtful, and interesting.
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, audiobook
What an amazing story! Can’t say enough good things about this book. It was so eye opening to read about Martin’s life. I’d like my kids to read this.
It starts off a little “middle school” but that is when they first became pen pals, so give it a chance!

***My kids ages (almost) 12 and 10 and my husband really enjoyed this story. We listened to the audiobook on a road trip and they couldn’t wait to get back in the car to finish on the way back from the trip.
Annaliese S
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was truly amazing.
I wasn't sure about it at first, even though everyone had told me it was great, as non-fiction isn't usually a genre I like. But then I started reading it, and that changed. I was caught up in the book, and had to force myself to put it down.
This book had not only a good story, but was inspiring. I loved this book and greatly encourage others to read it.
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
Carolyn Rusiackas
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that can be read and be found insightful by all ages from age 10-12 on. What is most valuable about the insights in one's understanding of growing up in-the-slums poor vs. in taken-for-granted affluence, (the respective states of the two pen-pals), is that the insight and commitment unfold just as a good friendship would unfold, slowly, as one person grows in trust of the other and reveals more about who they truly are. And as in an increasingly stronger friendship, both continue ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading Recommend...: Have you ever wanted a pen pal? 1 1 Apr 06, 2018 12:33AM  
I Will Always Write Back 1 2 Oct 20, 2017 06:58AM  
KMS Gr6 Library: I Will Always Write Back 1 1 Sep 17, 2017 11:31AM  
English 1 H Period 8: Book review by Kasey 1 6 Sep 07, 2017 03:16PM  
What was your favorite letter that Caitlin sent to Martin or Martin sent to Caitlin? 1 9 Oct 09, 2016 08:12AM  
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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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“The cascade of water was so vast and mighty, I thought, the angels were not only clapping - they were giving a standing and stomping ovation for a spectacle only God could have created.” 4 likes
“People are so scared of what they don't know.” 0 likes
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