Klages, Ellen. The Green Glass Sea: a novel. New York: Viking Press, 2006. ISBN 0670061344.
2. PLOT SUMMARY
In 1941, ten year old Dewey Kerrigan is having a rough time. First, she has to travel across the country by herself when her dad gets moved for a job into a town without an official name, but then she doesn’t really get along with anyone her age in this mysterious town. On the upside, an aspiring engineer like Dewey has plenty of the United State’s top scientists to talk to in Los Alamos. But she’ll find a connection in Suze Gordon, a semi-misfit like herself, whose parents are also working in New Mexico on the top-secret ‘gadget.’ With the shadows of secrets, war, and the tragedy of death hanging over them, these two girls will find that sisters go beyond blood and sometimes the super hero really is inside the little kid.
3. CRITICAL ANALYSIS
I’ve read a great number of books on World War II, some children’s books, like Waiting for Anya or Number the Stars, some not, like Hitler’s Scientists and Night, but most have been centered around the people involved with making the decisions or at least on the ‘front lines’ as it were. Klages brings the story back home -- to those affected by the war, but maybe not directly. Instead, we get history in snippets of overheard conversation or through vague references to people and places that the reader might know better in hindsight than the characters living through it. I got excited when I realized that Dewey was on a train with Richard Feynman and that ‘Oppie’ aka Robert Oppenheimer was just a few doors down. Looking back at the year made me realize that in the early 1940’s New Mexico desert, this book might not have a happy ending. While the research is fit in vague references and comments, the amount of information can get overwhelming at times but the characters remain likeable and true to each other and the setting. Even the switch between the voices of Dewey and Suze is handled with finesse as the reader can easily slip from one to the other without the jarring effects of feeling like an outsider for either girl as they explain their own story. The theme of superheroes and service to a country versus what is at times ambiguously moral is underlined by the currents of fitting in and being yourself. Klages provides a great deal of history, including in her sources other books on those who were involved at Los Alamos and the history behind the location that was a state secret for so long.
4. REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
SCOTT O’DELL AWARD FOR HISTORICAL FICTION
JUDY LOPEZ MEMORIAL AWARD
NEW MEXICO BOOK AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK
2009 ONE BOOK, ONE NEBRASKA FOR KIDS
A HORN BOOK FANFARE SELECTION
A JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION
A SCHOLASTIC BOOK CLUB SELECTION
FROM SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL – “Many readers will know as little about the true nature of the project as the girls do, so the gradual revelation of facts is especially effective, while those who already know about Los Alamos's historical significance will experience the story in a different, but equally powerful, way.”
From BOOKLIST reviewer John Green – “The novel occasionally gets mired down in detail, but the characters are exceptionally well drawn, and the compelling, unusual setting makes a great tie-in for history classes.”
Gather other books by Ellen Klages such as:
• WHITE SANDS, RED MENACE. ISBN 0142415189.
• PORTABLE CHILDHOODS. Introduction by Neil Gaiman. ISBN 1892391457.
Gather other books about World War II and the people who shaped the outcomes of war such as:
• Bascomb, Neal. THE NAZI HUNTERS: HOW A TEAM OF SPIES AND SURVIVORS CAPTURED THE WORLD’S MOST NOTORIOUS NAZI. ISBN 0545430992.
• Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. DOGS ON DUTY: SOLDIERS’ BEST FRIENDS ON THE BATTLEFIELD AND BEYOND. ISBN 0802736505.
• Bruchac, Joseph. CODE TALKER: A NOVEL ABOUT THE NAVAJO MARINES OF WORLD WAR TWO. ISBN 0142405965.
• Sheinkin, Steve. BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD – AND STEAL – THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON. ISBN 1596434872.