Delighted to be kicking off the blog tour, along with My Shelves are Full and Book Bound, for Dan Smith's excellent new historical fiction book for children: 'The Wall Between Us'. My full review follows and click here for a Q&A with Dan Smith too.
'The Wall Between Us' is sharp, tense and thrilling. It's one of those books that is so absorbing that it's impossible to put down. Written in the form of diaries, letters, interview transcripts and newspaper articles, it offers a fascinating insight into the terror and growing divisiveness caused by the building of the Berlin War. At its centre, are two young girls whose friendship is literally severed by the emergence of barbed-wire and then the wall itself between them. Somehow, Dan Smith creates compelling historical alchemy here because the huge scope of feeling of this time - 1961 - wields a vivid, horrifying narrative power, while the book remains small with compact chapters and fragments. As a teacher, this format is exciting and palatable for young readers, offering shifts in perspectives on an era of history perhaps sometimes forgotten. As an exploration of literary structures and authorial voices, it's really, really interesting too and something to deconstruct and explore.
But, above all, Dan Smith has written a really thrilling story. I loved Anja and Monika and really felt their desperation and really rooted for them. The ways they discover to communicate with each other is really clever, but the more they do the more suspenseful the story gets. With spies and the Stasi police a sinister presence, the story ramps up to a nail-biting conclusion with shocks and surprises too. At its heart, this is about these two brilliant young girls and their yearning for friendship, for communication, when history is very much against them. But its also a profound and necessary story of hope; that all the walls that divide us will eventually one day fall - and let's not forget that.
I love Dan Smith's historical books for children, but with 'The Walls Between Us' he has excelled, marking himself out as a daring, intelligent and fascinating author. This is different and surprising - I highly recommend it for children in Upper Key Stage 2 and early secondary school. Excellent.
Thank you to Laura Smythe and Chicken House books for including me on the blog tour.