Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Girl With the Red Balloon

The Girl With the Red Balloon
by Katherine Locke
Albert Whitman & Company, 2017, 277 pages, fiction

Ellie’s class trip to Germany is supposed to be a fun adventure, but she is having some conflicting feelings since her grandfather, a holocaust survivor, did not want her to come. When visiting the Berlin Wall she sees a red balloon, unattended, and decides to get a photograph with it. Her grandfather, often talks of the girl with a red balloon that saved him from a terrible fate.

As soon as Ellie touches the balloon, she finds herself in East Berlin 18 months before the Berlin Wall will come down. She is found by Kai, a young Romani man who works for a secret organization that smuggles people over the Wall by using magic red balloons. Reluctant at first she has no choice, but to trust him or risk being caught by the German police.

Ellie, Kai, and Kai’s work partner, Mitzi, soon discover that someone is breaking the magic laws in their rescue society to attempt time travel, and people are dying as a result. They need to find out who is behind it. Throughout Ellie’s time in East Germany, accounts of her grandfather’s experience in a Polish Ghetto are weaved throughout the book.

This book was wonderful. All the characters were well developed, and it was fun to mix magic and science fiction in with a historical fiction. Locke did her research and made sure to touch on the difficulties experienced in East Berlin, and the types of circumstances that would lead to someone risking their life to escape to West Germany. She also includes the quiet ways that people rebel and resist the oppression in the East.


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