Tuesday, March 1

A Night Divided

A Night Divided
Jennifer A. Nielsen

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-0545682428
Publisher: Scholastic
Date of publication: August 25, 2015
Age: Grades 4 - 8
Genre: Historical Fiction

Themes: family relationships, Berlin Wall, East Berlin, Cold War, escape

With the rise of the Berlin Wall one night in 1961, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city. But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

So excellently done! I love it, it's so good. What makes for a good historical fiction? When I learn something new about some event in history (even driving me to do my own research) AND become invested in the characters (both real and fiction) AND (spoiler!) get a happy ending. Nielsen did all of this and more. I learned so much about the Berlin Wall and life in East Berlin, but in such a way that it didn't feel like learning...it felt like I was there. And the characters! They each have their own motivations and fears to overcome. I particularly enjoyed Gerta's evolving relationship with her mother.

Now, is it particularly exciting? Well, it is a lot of tunneling and a lot of holding your breath with each near miss with the authorities. Will kids like it? I hope so. I know I still enjoyed it. Is it as gruesome and heartbreaking as it could be? No, but that's okay, because it's middle-grade fiction. I think Nielsen did an excellent job.

Readalikes would include The War that Saved my Life and Chasing Secrets, and actually, it would fit well on this book list.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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