Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Night Divided

A Night Divided made me realize that I've never read a middle grade or YA book about the Berlin Wall. It's interesting because there are so many books for young readers about WWII, but not many about what happened afterwards. For that alone, I think this book is worth adding to a classroom library.

Gerta's father has always been under suspicion of being unfaithful to the East German government, but they never thought anything would come from it. Until the night that a wall goes up, with Gerta's father and brother on the western side, and Gerta, her mother, and other brother Fritz left behind in East Germany. Years go by under the oppressive regime until Gerta decides that it is worth the risk to try and escape to the west. With the clock ticking down until Fritz has to report for military duty, the children decide to dig a tunnel. But they've lived so long in a society where no one can be trusted, it's only a matter of time before someone betrays them.

I enjoyed Nielsen's The False Prince and she uses her skill with pacing to give the novel an intense final third. This is a middle grade novel, so the interrogation tactics of the Stasi are glossed over, but the society is familiar enough to the dystopian novels my students enjoy that they would understand. I found there to be too many conveniences that would only happen in a middle grade novel: there just happens to be a pond where Gerta and Fritz can hide the dirt from the tunnel, the father just happens to know of a bomb shelter with weak walls, etc. These lend an air of incredibility to the novel for the adult reader, but young readers will eat it up. I think there are enough students who are interested in reading about WWII that they would read this on their own after a book talk.

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