Candlewick Press, 2016.
It’s an ordinary day of sixth grade for Noah Keller until his parents pick him up from school. Then, suddenly everything in his life turns on its ear. He learns that his name is not really Noah Keller, he’s not eleven yet, and their normal American life is being replaced by an extraordinary new life behind the wall in East Germany.
Communication is tricky in his new home, and strangely enough that has very little to do with Noah, now Jonah’s Astonishing Stutter. In East Germany, Noah must speak German, he has not been given permission to go to school, and perhaps most importantly he must follow his parents rules about what he may say or ask and where. It’s a lonely and confusing new world. But when Jonah meets Cloud-Claudia who lives downstairs with her grandmother, his world becomes a lot less lonely but quite a bit more interesting, confusing, and even dangerous.
Cloud and Wallfish is a masterful telling of the tale of East Germany immediately before the demise of the Berlin Wall. Though at first I bristled at Noah-Jonah’s attitude toward him as they upended his life to take him behind the iron curtain, how could they do it without an explanation? How could they be so darned cheerful about it? I soon was drawn into the story and began to trust the kindness and good nature of the parents, and unlike Noah-Jonah, I remained frustrated at the many things they wouldn’t divulge to him.
Anne Nesbit’s writing is unique and appealing as in this passage when the American family is sitting down to dinner with Jonah’s friend from the downstairs apartment. “It was the longest group of words any of them had ever heard Cloud-Claudia say. They all tried not to gape at her. There was a lot of friendly staring at spoons.”
I will want to read Cloud and Wallfish again. It’s a wonderful book to help children today understand the end of the era of the Cold War, but it is also simply a good story about the complexities of relationships, friendships, governments, and life. Highly recommended for schools, libraries, and homes.
I received an advance reader copy of Cloud and Wallfish from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.