Monday, April 10, 2017
MMGM: Cloud and Wallfish
I am late to the party on CLOUD AND WALLFISH, although I actually read this last fall. When I picked the book up, I knew the author’s name was familiar. I’d read THE WRINKLED CROWN by her, but though that was intriguing, it doesn’t hold a candle to CLOUD AND WALLFISH. I think this is what happens when a writer really writes from the heart. Nesbit’s heart came through strong and clear in this one—and it was obvious that she knew her setting like the back of her hand.
Here’s the synopsis (from Amazon):
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.
Cloud and Wallfish
1. Nonfiction at the end of chapters help kids understand the historical background: I thought this was an interesting way for the author to give kids background about the time period without overloading the actual story.
2. Setting/time period I’m drawn to: As many of you know, I lived in Ukraine shortly after the Iron Curtain fell, so I could relate to so many of the oddities and situations described in this book. I loved how it showed the propaganda against the U.S. It rang true for me on so many levels.
3. Interesting kids: Both Jonah (Wallfish) and Claudia (Cloud) were such interesting, unique characters. Their friendship was beautifully handled and well-done. The “Cloud” scene at the end is an image that will stay for me a long time.
4. Biblical allusions: I thought the references to the Tower of Babel and Jonah and the Whale added a lot of depth to this story, although it is not a religious book.
Caveat: The interesting thing about this book was that I expected from the first chapter that it was going to be a spy novel with lots of action, people being chased, etc. And though spies are integral to the plot, and the stakes are high, it was really a character-driven novel about a cross-cultural friendship about what life was like behind the Iron Curtain. Now, I was not disappointed at all, because I love novels about friendships and novels set during the Cold War, but if you’re looking for James Bond-type book set in Eastern Germany, you might be disappointed.
If you enjoy reading about this time period, you might also enjoy SECOND FIDDLE by Roseanne Parry, another favorite of mine, which is about an American violinist in Eastern Germany shortly after communism ended.
Have you read Cloud and Wallfish or any other novels set during the Cold War?
To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.