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Francesca has published Pen Pal, an e-book for middle grades through adults. $3.99. (Paperback available by January 1.)

I can’t recommend the book highly enough. It’s the story of two unlikely pen pals who turn out to have a lot in common and, though living a world apart, actually end up helping each other in times of crisis.

Em is a girl in a marginalized community on the southern U.S. coast (think “Beasts of the Southern Wild”) who puts a message in a bottle. The message is ultimately received by Kaya, a young woman in a place that is an amalgam of Asian countries where minorities have struggled to preserve their language and culture. Kaya is a political prisoner because of her advocacy.

It’s an amazingly enjoyable and compelling story, not as didactic as I may have made it sound. Francesca even went to tutor English in East Timor last summer, capping off several years of research about various locales in Asia and on the Gulf Coast.

Here is the message in the bottle starts it all off:

“Dear Person Who Finds My Message,

“I live in a place called Mermaid’s Hands. All our houses here rest on the mud when the tide is out, but when it comes in, they rise right up and float.

“They’re all roped together, so we don’t lose anyone. I like Mermaid’s Hands, but sometimes I wish I could unrope our house and see where it might float to. But I would get in trouble if I did that, so instead I’m sticking this message in a bottle. If you find it, please write back to me at this address. Tell me what the world is like where you are.

“Yours truly,

“Em”

Francesca says, “The ebook of Pen Pal is out in the world at three out of the four locations it’ll be available at–Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.”

If you like the book, enjoy its special website, here. And spread the word.

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