About the Book: No Matter the Distance

Penny Rooney has cystic fibrosis (CF), which means she has to do breathing treatments to help her lungs work. Some days, it seems like her CF is the only thing Penny knows about herself for sure. From her point of view, everyone around her can make sense of their place in the world. Then during spring break Penny spots something impossible in the creek behind her house: a dolphin, far from its home. As Penny’s CF worsens, she realizes that Rose needs to return to her pod to get better. Will Penny be able to help guide Rose back to the ocean, even if it means losing her friend?

 Emily Habeck Cindy Baldwin

About the Author: Cindy Baldwin

Cindy Baldwin is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Where the Watermelons Grow, Beginners Welcome, The Stars of Whistling Ridge and No Matter the Distance (a Junior Library Guild selection). She lives just outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter

No Matter the Distance - Discussion Questions

No Matter the Distance - Additional Discussion Questions

An Interview withCindy Baldwin

I have loved books and reading for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are falling asleep to an audio cassette recording of Anne of Green Gables! I loved how books could transport me to anywhere I wanted. When I was in middle school, I got serious about wanting to be a writer as well—I wanted to recreate the magic I’d experienced with my own stories.

I started drafting No Matter the Distance in April of 2020. I was having terrible writer’s block because of the pandemic, and the book I’d planned to write just wasn’t coming. I finally decided to give it up and jump into drafting a story that combined some of my favorite things: verse, cystic fibrosis representation, and dolphins! I have always wanted to write a book about cystic fibrosis, since there are no other fiction books about CF by authors who share the disease, and I’ve never felt truly represented by any of the (very few) books that exist on the topic. Still, it took me until three books into my career before I felt ready to write about such a deeply personal, and often traumatic, topic! When I started writing No Matter the Distance, there was no connection between CF and dolphins—I just really wanted to write a book about a girl who befriended a dolphin, which has always been my personal lifelong dream. (It was also heavily influenced by my favorite book of all time, A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle.) However, as I researched for the story, I discovered that dolphins are prone to bacterial pneumonia caused by the same rare bacteria that cause recurrent pneumonia in CF patients. This remains the coolest fact I’ve ever encountered in research, and it provided the most beautiful thematic connection between Penny and Rose!

I have loved, and written, poetry since I was a kid. So many people in our culture are intimidated by poetry, but I think that what most people don’t realize is that poetry is often a form with more freedom than prose! (If you don’t believe me, check out the poetry of e.e. cummings.) Poetry became especially important to me when I was a junior in high school and became extremely sick with a long-term viral infection. I spent almost a full year in bed, and had such intense brain fog and cognitive issues that I could barely read or write without becoming exhausted. Poetry—short, spare, and digestible—was much more accessible to me during that time. That period of sickness also really forced me to slow down and pay attention to the world around me in a way I never had before. I started noticing the tiny beautiful things I’d been too busy to see before, and that outward stillness translated into the inner stillness writing poetry requires.

Most importantly, I hope that No Matter the Distance helps open a window for healthy readers to understand what it’s like living with cystic fibrosis, and I hope that it helps readers with CF to feel seen and understood. More generally, though, I hope that reading No Matter the Distance can help to show young readers the power of a blank page—that even if, like Penny, they haven’t quite figured out who they want to be yet, they can be the author of their own story and figure out what’s most important to them.

I’ve long loved novels in verse, and always wanted to write one. Not all novels fit the verse format, but Penny's story felt like it couldn't be written any other way! I think that verse can be a really effective way to tackle difficult or emotionally overwhelming topics. All that white space on the page can give a sense of emotional space for a reader to take in a hard topic without feeling so overwhelmed by it. Verse also felt like a natural fit for the story of a girl who feels like she hasn't fully figured herself out—the spare, searching quality verse lends to a story really added to that feeling.

I am a huge library fan! I have had a library card in every city I’ve ever lived in. Growing up my mom rarely bought me books because I read so quickly, so we made regular trips to the library to stock up. As an adult, I utilize my local library system in Hillsboro all the time—usually multiple times a week if you count the digital collection through Libby! I read anywhere from 50 to 150 books a year, and 99% of those come from the library. I also have passed the library love on to my 11-year-old daughter, who feels like going to the library is one of the best errands ever.

Just like Penny, I had a severe phobia of needles when I was growing up, even though blood draws, vaccines, and IV therapy are a huge part of life with cystic fibrosis. I didn’t fully overcome my fear of needles until I was an adult and learned self-hypnosis when I was pregnant with my daughter!

Page Last Modified Tuesday, April 9, 2024