on Aug. 25, 2015
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?
I adored Nielsen’s Ascendance Trilogy (The False Prince, The Runaway King, The Shadow Throne) so, so, so much! However, I had yet to try her historical fiction. I kept meaning to but things get lost in the TBR pile shuffle!
This year I started a system at the intermediate school I’m at where students can recommend books for me to read. I highlight the book I’m reading and who recommended it on a board near my desk. When I’m done reading, I send a note and a scratch and sniff bookmark to the student via their teachers mailbox. It’s been a big hit with students and it’s helping me become more familiar with what they like to read. A Night Divided was one of the first recommendations. I’m so glad I finally read it.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit how much I learned reading this book. I know it’s fiction, but there is a lot of history in there as well. It’s set right around the time the Berlin Wall went up. I’m sure I probably learned about this at some point in my schooling. I was surprised at how little I knew when I really began to think about it. I appreciated how Nielsen worked the actual history into her fictional story. It was skillfully done.
Historical fiction is such a great way to help readers understand what life was like (for people similar to their main characters) during a certain time period. Gerta’s whole world is shaken due to the wall and what it symbolizes. Her family is separated and under suspicion. Through the story, readers can relate to Gerta, but also to the real people who also experienced this. I love how books like this inspire my students to find nonfiction books/websites/articles about the same topic!
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen is an excellent addition to any intermediate or middle school library. Students who have read all your WWII fiction will be interested to learn more about what life was like in Germany after the fact. We have multiple copies in our library and they are almost always all checked out!