News Article Details

Eastern grad pens quirky kids' book

The Chronicle - 8/4/2019

Aug. 3--WILLIMANTIC -- An Eastern Connecticut State University graduate has used her experience in autistic education and a childhood obsession with "bad news" to craft a quirky new children's book.

Earlier this year, Eastern alumna Nicole Panteleakos released " Planet Earth is Blue," a historical fiction book for middle-grade readers.

The book focuses on Nova, a nonverbal autistic girl with a passion for astronomy during the time of the space shuttle Challenger explosion.

After graduating from Eastern in 2008, she worked at EastConn's autism school in Columbia. She then moved to New York City where she worked in various positions helping children with disabilities before becoming a full-time author a few years ago. This is her first published novel. At Eastern, Panteleakos studied performing arts theater with a concentration in script writing. She also took on an English minor.

When she was a kid, Panteleakos said she was obsessed with the Challenger, extreme weather and " general bad news."

Although the book centers around the Challenger disaster, Panteleakos said it is a positive story of hope.

"As I started coming up with the characters and finding Nova's voice, I realized I wanted to write about hope and expectation and excitement -- all of the things that led up to the Challenger launch -- and then deal with the awful aftermath through the eyes of my protagonist, a 12-year-old space-obsessed girl," Panteleakos said in an email.

Panteleakos said she has always enjoyed writing and even wrote her first "novel" when she was 6 years old.

"It was meant to be a chapter book for preschoolers and kindergartners to read independently, and I was adamant it not have any pictures because I thought there was a real need for lengthy picturefree novels for kids ages 3 to 5," Panteleakos said of her first foray into fiction. "But, it turns out, there's not."

Panteleakos said she has studied poetry, playwriting, journalism and more, but she is currently happiest working with middle-grade fiction.

"Planet Earth is Blue" was released by Penguin Random House in May and is available wherever books are sold in print, e-book and audiobook versions.

Panteleakos is currently pursuing her master's degree in fine arts in children's literature at Hollins University in Virginia.

She splits her time between living in Virginia, New York and Connecticut.

Follow Claire Galvin on Twitter -- @CGalvinTC.

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