Monday, December 1, 2014

Review: Dear Blue Sky by Mary Sullivan

Title: Dear Blue Sky
Author: Mary Sullivan
Year Published: 2010

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 360
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2014 Google Reading map): Iraq and the US

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Cassie feels like her world is falling apart. Her beloved brother is fighting in Iraq, her parents are fighting about Iraq, and her sister is making all kinds of bad decisions. Her best friend, Sonia, has stopped speaking to her, and her little brother has stopped speaking altogether. Cassie's only relief comes from daily runs and hanging out with Kimberly Love--the offbeat classmate who has surprised Cassie with friendship after Sonia and her crowd dropped her.

But Cassie's perspective on things shifts when she discovers Blue Sky's blog. Blue Sky, an Iraqi girl, seems so similar to Cassie, yet her world is really falling apart. The girls begin a correspondence and Cassie learns that when Blue Sky writes "I want my life back," she means something profound, as she can no longer venture out in her destroyed city. Cassie takes strength from Blue Sky's courage and is inspired to stop running away from the pain and the reclaim her life.

Review: I have been meaning to read this book with my daughter, but we never got around to it so now I am reading it on my own.

I attended a conference recently about using technology effectively in schools (stick with me, this is relevant) and it totally fit with this book. Cassie's brother has just enlisted and gone off to Iraq, shattering her family. At the same time, her history teacher assigns finding a blog written by a teen in another country. Fantastic! My conference talked a lot about getting students to see multiple perspectives, to read articles and blogs from different countries to understand historical events. Cassie's teacher feels they will better understand history if they read about another country as it is experienced by a "native." Cassie chooses Blue Sky's blog. Blue Sky is a teenager living in Iraq.

I think reading Blue Sky's perspective on living in Iraq while reading Cassie's brother's letters about being a soldier in Iraq is powerful. We get two very different sides of a situation and see how the same events affect people differently, both short and long term.

Seeing how having a family member go off to war affects those at home is also done well in this slim novel. We experience the mother falling apart, the dad becoming distant and the relationships changing amongst the family members. The brother was the glue that held them all together and when he is gone, the rest aren't really sure how to keep it together.

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