Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

I recommend this book for: middle school and high school

Dewey and Suze are 12 years old, and both of them are daughters of the scientists working on the atomic bomb during WWII, so they live with their parents (or in Dewey's case, her single father) on the Hill. They are also both social outcasts, Suze for her bossiness and Dewey because she'd rather tinker around with radios and gizmos of her own invention, and because of a severely injured leg. In true middle school fashion, Suze bullies Dewey because she's the only person lower on the popularity totem pole than she is herself. Then a top secret assignment takes Dewey's father away, and Suze's mother offers to let her stay with them and the girls are forced together.

I thought this book was fantastic. It gives you a good sense of what life was like for kids during the war, from the music on the radio to the comic books. The ethics of the war and the bomb are discussed, but mostly in hushed voices by the adults, so the moral never overtakes the story. The characters are utterly believable, both kids and adults, and they make a beautiful novel. I'd find it hard to believe that a child could get to middle school without having some context of WWII and what exactly the word "Hiroshima" means, so I don't think the book's subtlety would trip anyone up, although I suppose it is possible.

Parents who are concerned about this sort of thing should note that there are some instances of bad language under provocation, and Suze's mother constantly smokes cigarettes, plus the scientists like to celebrate with drinks when their 'gadget' has a successful test - but hey, that's real life. Personally, I heard worse in class when I was in middle school.

What the pros thought.

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