Cloud and Wallfish

Anne Nesbet

Cloud and Wallfish
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Cloud and Wallfish

Anne Nesbet

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.

Review

Imagine if everything you knew and took for granted about your life was just a facade, a mask to cover the real life you were being groomed for. In the new life, you would adopt a new identity, change your name and age, and fabricate a background peopled with strangers you’ve never met and experiences you’ve never had.

Suddenly, there are ten new rules to live by, including: #1 They will always be listening and often be watching, #3 Don’t call attention to yourself and #10 Notice everything! This is what 11-year-old Noah Keller must come to terms with quick-smart. He’s whisked away under a confusing cloud of secrecy from his home in Oasis, California to his new life in East Germany behind the Iron Curtain.

The year is 1989 and tensions are running high as an undercurrent of discontent builds towards a change (i.e. the coming down of the Berlin Wall). Noah and his parents are in the thick of it, and conceal their agenda for being there. For Noah – or Jonah, as he comes to be known – and his only friend Cloud-Claudia, decoding the cloaked messages and covert agendas at work around them is a dangerous game in which the stakes are high. These two friends are the changelings through which this historically significant story is told. It’s a work that is as clever, fresh and impressive as the young characters themselves, and will appeal to readers aged 10+.


Natalie Platten is the assistant manager and children’s book buyer at Readings Doncaster.

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