Monday, April 23, 2018

MMGM: A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen


From New York Times 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 divided overnight. 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?


One of the things that I especially enjoy about Jennifer Nielsen's books is how quickly she gets into the action.  Not only do I enjoy that, but so do young readers, especially middle grade readers.  If a book isn't interesting right off the bat, a lot of students won't stick with it.  While this book is historical fiction, a genre that many middle grade readers aren't very interested in, it doesn't read like a boring history book at all.  In fact it reads more like a thriller.

One morning Gerta wakes up to discover a wall shutting her off from her father and brother.  She's left in East Berlin with her mother and her older brother, Fritz.  Four years later, Gerta still can't help staring at the wall and thinking about what's on the other side.  And seeing her brother and then her father for the first time in four years is exciting but also dangerous when a East German soldier spots her doing it.  It's also baffling.  Gerta's father is dancing?  Eventually Gerta figures out what her father is trying to tell her and finds the perfect place to build a tunnel.  But is it worth the risk?  After Gerta's friend's brother is killed trying to escape, Gerta isn't so sure.  Until it becomes clear that her family has been marked by the Stasi, the East German Secret Police, and have very little to look forward to in the future.  With her brother's help, Gerta works to build the tunnel.  But with so many eyes on them, is it even possible to get the tunnel built?  And even if they build the tunnel, they have little time remaining before Fritz must report to the military to serve.  Can they keep their secret long enough to escape?  And will their mother come with them if they do?

Nielsen's written a real page-turner.  I couldn't wait to find out how things turned out for Gerta and her family.  Not only is this an exciting book to read but it's also eye-opening in the historical details it provides about living behind the Berlin Wall.  Another great book from one of my favorite authors.


  1. Thanks for telling me about this exciting book. I just ordered my own copy.

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