Cloud and Wallfish

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Cloud and Wallfish (hardcover)

by Anne Nesbet

AR Level 5.8, 12 points

 

Cloud and Wallfish is about a boy named Noah who had to forget everything he thought he knew about himself when his parents pick him up from school and move to East Germany during the Cold War, right before the Berlin Wall was torn down.  Noah is given a new name (Jonah), a new birthday, and a new identity, including a book of class pictures that aren’t really of him.  He is given a set of rules that require him to be seen and not heard, lest he give away their true identities.  Noah is told it is so his mother can study children with stutters (like himself), but he later finds that may not be the complete truth.  Noah, lonely and confused, makes friends with a girl named Claudia whose parents died in a car accident and is being raised by her frightening grandmother.  Claudia (Cloud) and Noah/Jonah (Wallfish, which sounds like the german word for whale) become friends and create a bond that cannot be broken by time.

What I liked about this book was that I learned a lot about what life was like for East Germans during the Cold War.  It is a time period I was never really interested in, so I don’t have a lot of knowledge about it, and I appreciated that this book broke it down through both narrative and “fact files” so I could have a background.  That was a clever strategy the author used.

What I didn’t like about this book was that I was disappointed.  I had high hopes for this book and REALLY thought I’d love it.  It is well-written, but it was a little slow for me.  I actually had to renew this book from the library, because I couldn’t finish it in the time I had it.  I also have questions that have yet to be answered.  There were things that either weren’t explained or weren’t clear, possibly because I rushed through the ending to finally see the finish.

Book 7 of 40

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Refugee

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Refugee (hardcover)

by Alan Gratz

 

It isn’t often that I preorder books.  Okay, that was a lie.  It isn’t often that I preorder books for ME to read.  I usually get them because they’re by popular authors (like Stuart Gibbs or Kwame Alexander) or because my daughter loves the book (like The Owl Diaries series).  I preordered Refugee, because it was in my Twitter feed for several solid months straight, meaning before it was even out, people were reading it and raving about it.  In my quest to read every single Newbery contender, I figured I’d order it before I forgot about it.  Oh my gosh, you guys.  You have to read this.  I’m not sure if it’s a Newbery contender (those tend to be like Oscar movies where you finish and you aren’t sure if you liked it or not, or you’re not sure if they were written for children or adults), but this is a must-read if you live on planet Earth.

Refugee follows the stories of 3 refugee children, all 11-13 years old, during different time periods.  Josef is a Jewish child living in Germany, when his father is taken by the Nazis and put into a concentration camp.  He is released, and the family reunites to board the St. Louis and said across the Atlantic in hopes of gaining entrance to Cuba as refugees.  Fast forward to 1994, and you’ll meet Isabel, a Cuban girl living in poverty under Fidel Castro’s reign.  She, with her family and neighbors, set out in a homemade “boat” to get to Miami after Castro says they are free to leave without being put into jail.  They face sharks, weather, a cargo ship, and several health issues that put their trip in jeopardy.  Our third story is Mahmoud, a Syrian boy living in Aleppo.  He leaves Syria and travels across the Mediterranean Sea to try to reach Germany with his parents, younger brother, and baby sister.  Each of these three refugee children have a long, tough journey, and lose a loved one along the way.  We find out later that their three stories are connected, and that although they’re living during different times, their struggles are similar, and their goals are the same- to find a new, safe place to live without fear of living in terror.

What I liked about this book… when I first started it, I thought it was interesting learning about their backgrounds and living conditions.  I enjoy historical fiction.  But I was quickly sucked into their stories, and I was rooting for them.  When Isabel was just yards away from the shore, the tears began, and continued through the end of the story.  It is a very emotional, powerful, and REAL book that needs to be in the hands of my students.  The refugee crisis isn’t something we’re hearing about on tv with the war in Syria.  It has been going on all throughout history, and this book brings that to the reader’s attention.  He could write Refugee part 2 and include refugees from Vietnam or Cambodia, Korea, the Kurds, the Christians in Muslim countries, etc.  There will always be refugees as long as there are wars.

What I didn’t like about this book… I can’t really think of anything.  It was engaging from beginning to end, and while heartbreaking, it is necessary.

Book 17 of summer 2017!