Oasis, Virginia has been Noah Keller's home until today. Now his parents are dragging him out of school, telling him his name is Jonah, changing his birthday and telling him they are all moving to East Germany and he's going to have to follow the rules really, really carefully.
Noah aka Jonah is about to enter a strange, eerie world where someone is listening to every word he and his parents say even in their own home and Noah, with his Astonishing Stutter is not going to be allowed to enroll in school.
It's an oddly bleak life. His mother is in East Germany to do research on children while his father says he is writing a book on mink farming. It's 1989 and the East German's are fighting for their power, their culture and their domination within their boundaries.
Jonah meets Claudia on the stairs of his apartment building one day and the two quickly style themselves "Changelings" and begin creating a map of a secret world and using code to communicate with each other between the floors and ceilings of their respective apartments.
It's an empty world filled occasionally by tart grapefruit juice from Cuba and the occasional lucky strike on some flour in the local store.
The society Jonah and his parents have landed in is layered with people of all nationalities spying on each other, a hierarchy within the East German government of constant vigilance and lies, and the threat of loss of job or even loss of life hanging over everyone's head.
It's a puzzle and when Claudia and her grandmother learn that Claudia's parents have been killed in a car accident in Hungary things begin to slowly unravel.
Rather than an action-packed adventure story, this is more of a biography of the East German people in the time when Gorbachev was beginning to talk about perestroika.
For anyone who has ever wondered what life was like behind the Iron Curtain here is a view into the daily lives of normal East German people. The oppression is carefully described and the ever present threat of danger that lives quietly in the walls of every building is conveyed with familiarity and deftness.
978-0763688035 Ages 9-13 380 pages
Keywords: Stuttering; Cold War; East Germany
Storyline: Character driven Tone: Moody; threatening Pacing: Slow Pacing
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
Slip behind the Iron Curtain into a world of smoke, secrets, and lies in this stunning novel where someone is always listening and nothing is as it seems.
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. --from the publisher