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From NYT bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen comes a stunning thriller about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family between east and west.
With the rise of the Berlin Wall, 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 knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can't help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, 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?
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Jennifer A. Nielsen is the acclaimed author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Ascendance Trilogy: The False Prince, The Runaway King, and The Shadow Throne. She has also written The Underworld Chronicles, a humorous middle-grade fantasy series. Jennifer lives in northern Utah with her husband, their three children, and a perpetually muddy dog.From School Library Journal:
Gr 5–8—It's August 13, 1961. Young Gerta wakes up to see that the Berlin Wall has been built overnight, dividing not only her city but her family. Her father and brother Dominic went looking for work on the west side of the city and now they cannot return home. Gerta, her mother, and brother Fritz are trapped in East Berlin. Years pass and resentment of Russian oppression and her family's separation make the now 12-year-old more than ready to take a dangerous chance when her father's smuggled clues encourage her to dig a tunnel to freedom. Nielsen, best known for her fantasy novels, proves she is equally skilled at historical fiction in this solidly structured, balanced account of the origins of an infamous historical landmark. Gerta is a sassy, determined heroine with realistic fears and frustrations—like her longing for a banana. Distinct supporting characters each react differently to Russian rule and demonstrate the harrowing choices people made to survive, encouraging readers to consider what they would have done if fate and history had cast them into the story. The novel is also an intriguing history of the Berlin Wall itself, detailing how and why it was built and citizens' first reactions. Opening each chapter is an inspirational quote about freedom and bravery juxtaposed with barbed-wire illustrations; the book's final quote ominously warns "History repeats itself." VERDICT The novel's strong setting and tense climax will keep readers engrossed and holding their breath until the last page.—Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY
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