I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I Will Always Write Back is the true story of unlikely pen pals that begins in 1997, when 12-year-old American Caitlin and 14-year-old Zimbabwean Martin are randomly paired by their schools. It's told in the first person, with chapters alternating between Caitlin's and Martin's points of view, as the two forge a life-altering friendship despite significant cultural, economic, and geographical differences. The disparity between their lives is stark; Caitlin is a typical middle-class American teen engaged in petty dramas involving friends and boys, while Martin goes hungry daily and struggles to find the funds to stay in school. When Caitlin sends him a dollar so he can see American currency, he can buy enough groceries to feed his family for two weeks. Martin is hesitant to disclose just how poor his family is but eventually opens up to Caitlin as his situation grows more desperate. Caitlin, with help from her tireless mother, ultimately changes Martin's life, as well as the lives of his family members. Martin, in return, opens Caitlin's eyes to the world outside her small rural town.
What's the story?
I WILL ALWAYS WRITE BACK is the true story of two pen pals: Caitlin, a typical American teenager, and Martin, a poor but incredibly bright and hard-working boy in the African country of Zimbabwe who's struggling to get enough money to stay in school. Caitlin has no concept of Martin's poverty and sends him photographs and small gifts. She asks for similar items in return, not knowing that Martin's family barely has enough money to eat or pay his school fees, much less buy stamps or even have a photograph taken. Slowly, Martin reveals the depth of his poverty to his new American friend, who responds by sending him $20 she earned babysitting -- enough to keep him in school and prevent his family from being evicted. As Martin's financial situation grows dire, Caitlin and her family increase their support, eventually changing both Martin's and Caitlin's lives forever.
Is it any good?
Caitlin and Martin’s correspondence is an eye-opening look into the real-life implications of global poverty. It’s hard not to be moved by Martin's plight, and even more difficult not to suddenly feel incredibly fortunate as you read about the overwhelming obstacles he and other Zimbabweans face. Like Caitlin, most readers will be shocked by the particulars of Martin’s poverty, which includes having to drop out of school because his family is too poor to afford the fees and the power that only a few American dollars have in sustaining a family. Their story is a testament to the power of friendship, charity, and ingenuity and may inspire many more acts of kindness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Martin and Caitlin's unusual friendship. Have you ever met anyone who changed your life?
Are you more like Martin or Caitlin, and in what ways?
Does Martin and Caitlin's story inspire you to take action to make the world a better place? What are some ways you could do that?
- Authors: Martin Ganada, Caitlin Alifrenka, Liz Welch
- Genre: Autobiography
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publishers: Little, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: April 14, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love friendship and coming-of-age stories
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.