It isn't that Abby Carson can't do her schoolwork. She just doesn't "like" doing it. And consequently, Abby will have to repeat sixth grade — unless she meets some specific conditions, including taking on an extra credit project: find a pen pal in a distant country. But when Abby's first letter arrives at a small school in Afghanistan, complications arise. The elders agree that any letters going back to America must be written well, but the only qualified English-speaking student is a boy. And in this village, it's not proper for a boy to correspond with a girl. So, Sadeed's sister will dictate and sign the letters for him. But what about the villagers who believe that girls should not be anywhere near a school? And what about those who believe that any contact with Americans is...unhealthy?
As letters flow back and forth — between the prairies of Illinois and the mountains of central Asia, across cultural and religious divides, through the minefields of different lifestyles and traditions — a small group of children begin to speak and listen to each other. And in just a few short weeks, they make important discoveries about their communities, about their world, and most of all, about themselves.