Pen pals, Meena and River, become fast friends as they discover that they have much more in common than they ever thought possible. Told via alternating bits of correspondence, the story spans an entire school year, with happy, sad, and uncomfortable conversations along the way.
Themes/Content: Friendship, writing, culture, India, Kentucky, social activism, environment, immigration, citizenship, coal mining, mountain top removal, stereotypes, prejudice, Appalachia, family, poetry, voice, presidential elections, Barak Obama
My two cents: Recommended for grades 5 and up. I really wanted to love this book, but I had a hard time believing it. Meena begins the conversation by asking River to be completely open and honest in his writing…. and surprisingly he actually is! I know it’s possible for two kids to be so forthcoming so quickly, but it’s just not believable. Their correspondence is also full of political overtones. Again, not to say that two sixth graders would not ever discuss presidential elections and environmental activism, they just seem mature beyond their years. (Be aware that a few of their conversations may not be suitable for everyone.)
(Spoilers ahead…) Finally, there is also just a little too much coincidence for this to be believable. They both have fathers whose work keeps them away from home for long periods of time; they both have extremely wise, caring and strong grandmothers; their homesteads are impacted by greedy companies destroying the environment; River’s school gym is crushed by a boulder dislodged as a result of mountain top mining; River ends up on the cover of Time magazine … Sorry, but there are just way too many cards falling into place…
Favorite Quote: “I like that library books have secret lives. All those hands that have held them. All those eyes that have read them.” (House, Silas; Vaswani, Neela (2012-02-14). Same Sun Here (Kindle Locations 741-742). Candlewick Press. Kindle Edition.)
The Final Word: So-so. 😐