Cloud and Wallfish
Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn’t really Noah and he didn’t really just turn eleven in March. And he can’t even ask them why — not because of his Astonishing Stutter, but because asking questions is against the newly instated rules. (Rule Number Two: Don’t talk about serious things indoors, because Rule Number One: They will always be listening). As Noah—now "Jonah Brown"—and his parents head behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the rules and secrets begin to pile up so quickly that he can hardly keep track of the questions bubbling up inside him: Who, exactly, is listening — and why? When did his mother become fluent in so many languages? And what really happened to the parents of his only friend, Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives downstairs? In an intricately plotted novel full of espionage and intrigue, friendship and family, Anne Nesbet cracks history wide open and gets right to the heart of what it feels like to be an outsider in a world that’s impossible to understand.
Strengths: The details of life in East Germany at this time are exquisite, and Nesbet's experience and research add a lot to the book. Even the format is intriguing-- after each chapter, there is a little bit of information on one of the facets of life.
There have not been too many books about the Berlin Wall-- Nielsen's A Night Divided, Kephart's Going Over, and Degens' Freya on the Wall are the only ones I can think of. This is clearly a much needed addition to the range of historical fiction, and Nesbet's experiences in Europe at that time enrich the novel considerably.
At its core, this is a novel of friendship, and of fitting into another culture. The fact that Noah was dragged away from the Unites States and thrown into life in East Germany will intrigue many readers who secretly believe that their own parents could, in fact, be spies!