The Green Glass Sea

The Green Glass Sea

4.5 54
by Ellen Klages
     
 

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It is 1943, and 11-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is traveling west on a train to live with her scientist father—but no one, not her father nor the military guardians who accompany her, will tell her exactly where he is. When she reaches Los Alamos, New Mexico, she learns why: he's working on a top secret government program. Over the next few years, Dewey gets to know

Overview

It is 1943, and 11-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is traveling west on a train to live with her scientist father—but no one, not her father nor the military guardians who accompany her, will tell her exactly where he is. When she reaches Los Alamos, New Mexico, she learns why: he's working on a top secret government program. Over the next few years, Dewey gets to know eminent scientists, starts tinkering with her own mechanical projects, becomes friends with a budding artist who is as much of a misfit as she is—and, all the while, has no idea how the Manhattan Project is about to change the world. This book's fresh prose and fascinating subject are like nothing you've read before.

Editorial Reviews

...intense but accessible page-turner, firmly belongs to the girls and their families; history and story are drawn together with confidence. (The Horn Book Magazine, starred review)
Publishers Weekly
Klages makes an impressive debut with an ambitious, meticulously researched novel set during WWII. Writing from the points of view of two displaced children, she successfully recreates life at Los Alamos Camp, where scientists and mathematicians converge with their families to construct and test the first nuclear bomb. Eleven-year-old Dewey, the daughter of a math professor, is shunned by the other girls at the camp due to her passionate interest in mechanics and her fascination with the dump, which holds all sorts of mechanisms and tools she can use for her projects. Her classmate Suze is also often snubbed and has been nicknamed "Truck" by her classmates (" 'cause she's kind of big and likes to push people around," explains one boy). The two outcasts reluctantly come together when Dewey's father is called away to Washington, D.C., and Dewey temporarily moves in with Suze's family. Although the girls do not get along at first (Suze draws a chalk line in her room to separate their personal spaces), they gradually learn to rely on each other for comfort, support and companionship. Details about the era-popular music, pastimes and products-add authenticity to the story as do brief appearances of some historic figures including Robert Oppenheimer, who breaks the news to Dewey that her father has been killed in a car accident. If the book is a little slow-moving at times, the author provides much insight into the controversies surrounding the making of the bomb and brings to life the tensions of war experienced by adults and children alike. Ages 9-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Ava Donaldson
The Green Glass Sea is a wonderful representation of the hardships and little wonders of World War II. Suze and Dewey have their differences, but they become friends in the center of one of the most debated and notorious places of that era. Although Los Alamos is seen as the beginning of all the atomic bomb controversy and destruction, this novel gives the other side. Poetic and real, this one will keep you reading and leave you thinking.
VOYA - Cindy Faughnan
In 1943, Dewey, a smart eleven-year-old girl who likes to invent things, is sent to live with her scientist father in New Mexico in a guarded town that does not officially exist. Scientists and mathematicians working on a secret project to end the war surround her. She deals with bullies and mean girls and finally becomes friends with Suze, with whose family she must live after her father's death. The scientists take their families out for a picnic on the night that the "gadget" is tested, and they all witness the explosion of the first atomic bomb 220 miles away from them. Suze's parents take the girls to the site where they pick up pieces of the green glass formed by the intense heat of the bomb. This quiet book looks at how the children of the men and women working on the Manhattan Project lived. It is interesting to learn about the secret town of Los Alamos from the youths' viewpoint and to see how the families of the scientists existed. Like Gennifer Choldenko's Al Capone Does My Shirts (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2004/VOYA April 2004), this book takes a time and place in history that has rarely been explored and shows how children are children even when they live in unusual cirumstances. The book is well written, with intelligent characters and understandable descriptions of the place and the work being accomplished. Its well-researched information, including the debate that occurred when the scientists realized what they had created, will appeal to readers of historical fiction.
Children's Literature - Leslie Wolfson
Readers won't understand what the title refers to until the last chapter of the book, but will enjoy the journey while getting there. Two misfits—quiet, mechanically inclined Dewey—and bossy, solidly built Suze, a budding artist, come together in unusual circumstances. It is 1943 and both Dewey's dad and Suze's parents are scientists working on a secret project in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Dewey has had her share of hardships—her mother deserted the family when she was a baby, and her dad left her with her grandmother, who recently suffered a stroke. One of Dewey's legs is shorter than the other, and kids make fun of her because of her weird shoes and limp. She meets Suze after moving to the military base in New Mexico to live with her dad. Although Suze initially joins in with the other girls to ridicule Dewey whom they call "Screwy Dewey," she comes to appreciate Dewey's talent in mechanics, and her quiet, inner strength. The story culminates in the unveiling of "the gadget." All of the characters are likable, realistic, and well developed. Dewey is worthy of both empathy and respect, and readers can look forward to the sequel, which the author is currently writing.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Two girls spend a year in Los Alamos as their parents work on the secret "gadget" that will end World War II. Dewey is a mechanically minded 10-year-old who gets along fine with the scientists at the site, but is teased by girls her own age. When her mathematician father is called away, she moves in with Suze, who initially detests her new roommate. The two draw closer, though, and their growing friendship is neatly set against the tenseness of the Los Alamos compound as the project nears completion. Clear prose brings readers right into the unusual atmosphere of the secretive scientific community, seen through the eyes of the kids and their families. Dewey is an especially engaging character, plunging on with her mechanical projects and ignoring any questions about gender roles. Occasional shifts into first person highlight the protagonist's most emotional moments, including her journey to the site and her reaction to her father's unexpected death. After the atomic bomb test succeeds, ethical concerns of both youngsters and adults intensify as the characters learn how it is ultimately used. 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.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The author's acknowledgement at the end of this work reveals that the last chapter was originally a short story that subsequently inspired the rest. This insight into the writing process makes sense of (but fails to redeem) the over 200 pages that precede that final chapter. Obviously (perhaps too obviously) well researched and undeniably earnest, this child's-eye view of the development of the atom bomb seems unlikely to find a wide or enthusiastic audience. Crammed with period detail like cigarette brands and radio models, as well as the names of the famous scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the narrative offers plenty of information but little insight. Main characters Dewey (the bright, plucky, soon-to-be orphan) and Suze (the bully desperate to have friends) are initially antagonistic, but eventually become friends. Unfortunately, too much description and too little action means these characters fail to come to life, making their interactions unconvincing and uninteresting. Secondary characters are even more broadly drawn and less engaging. Unusual and thoughtful, but ultimately unsuccessful. (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
“Klages makes an impressive debut with an ambitious, meticulously researched novel set during WWII. Writing from the points of view of two displaced children, she successfully recreates life at Los Alamos Camp, where scientists and mathematicians converge with their families to construct and test the first nuclear bomb.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Dewey, ten, embarks alone on a mysterious train trip from her grandmother's home in St. Louis to New Mexico, where she will rejoin her often-absent mathematician father. It's 1943, and Dewey's dad is working at Los Alamos — "the Hill" — with hundreds of other scientists and their families. Klages evokes both the big-sky landscape of the Southwest and a community where "everything is secret" with inviting ease and the right details, focusing particularly on the society of the children who live there. Dewey seems comfortable with her own oddness (she's small for her age, slightly lame, and loves inventing mechanical gizmos) and serves as something of an example to another girl, Suze, who has been trying desperately to fit in. Their burgeoning friendship sees them through bouts of taunting, their parents' ceaseless attention to "the gadget," personal tragedy, and of course the test detonation early on July 16, 1945, which the two girls watch from a mesa two hundred miles away: "Dewey could see the colors and patterns of blankets and shirts that had been indistinct grays a second before, as if it were instantly morning, as if the sun had risen in the south, just this once." Cameo appearances are made by such famous names as Richard Feynman (he helps Dewey build a radio) and Robert Oppenheimer, but the story, an intense but accessible page-turner, firmly belongs to the girls and their families; history and story are drawn together with confidence." -The Horn Book Magazine, starred review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440637131
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
05/01/2008
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
186,523
Lexile:
790L (what's this?)
File size:
500 KB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Treasure at the Dump

Dewey took a final bite of her apple and, without taking her eyes off her book, put the core into the brown paper sack on the ground next to her. She was reading a biography, the life of Faraday, and she was just coming to the exciting part where he figured out about electricity and magnetism. She leaned contentedly against Papa's shoulder and turned the page.

Today they had chosen to sit against the west wall of the commissary for their picnic lunch. It offered a little bit of shade, they could look out at the Pond, and it was three minutes from Papa's office, which meant they could spend almost the whole hour reading together.

"Dews?" Papa said a few minutes later. "Remember the other night when we were talking about how much math and music are related?"

Dewey nodded.

"Well, there was a quote I couldn't quite recall, and I just found it. Listen." He began to read, very slowly. " 'Music is the hidden arithmetic of the soul, which does not know that it deals with numbers. Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting.' That's exactly what I was talking about."

"Who said it?" Dewey asked.

"Leibniz. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. He was an interesting guy, a mathematician and a philosopher and a musician to boot. You'd like him."

"Can I borrow that book when you're done?"

"I don't think you'd get far," he laughed. He turned and showed her his book, bound in very old, brown leather that was flaking off in places. The page it was open to was covered in an odd, heavy black type.

"It's in German," Dewey said, surprised. That explained why he had read so slowly. He'd been translating. "So is Leibniz a Nazi?"

"Hardly. He died more than two hundred years ago, long before there were any Nazis." He shook his head. "Don't make the mistake of throwing out a whole culture just because some madmen speak the same language. Remember, Beethoven was German. And Bach, and-"

The rest of his sentence was interrupted by the shrill siren from the Tech Area. He sighed. "Time to go back to my own numbers." He closed his book, then leaned over and kissed Dewey on the top of her head. "What're you up to this afternoon?" He stood up, brushed the crumbs from his sandwich off his lap into the dirt, then brushed the dirt itself off the back of his pants.

Dewey squinted up at him. "I think I'll sit here and read for a while. A couple more chapters anyway. Then I'm going to the dump. Some of the labs are moving into the Gamma Building, now that it's done, and people always throw out good stuff when they move."

He smiled. "Looking for anything in particular?"

"I don't know yet. I need some bigger gears and some knobs and dials. And some ball bearings," she added after a short pause. "I'll show you at dinner if I find anything really special."

"Deal. We're just analyzing data this afternoon, so I may actually get out at 5:30. If you get home before me, put the casserole in the oven and we can eat around seven." He tucked his book under his arm.

"Okay." Dewey watched him walk around the corner of the building, then turned back to her book.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Klages makes an impressive debut with an ambitious, meticulously researched novel set during WWII. Writing from the points of view of two displaced children, she successfully recreates life at Los Alamos Camp, where scientists and mathematicians converge with their families to construct and test the first nuclear bomb.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Dewey, ten, embarks alone on a mysterious train trip from her grandmother's home in St. Louis to New Mexico, where she will rejoin her often-absent mathematician father. It's 1943, and Dewey's dad is working at Los Alamos — "the Hill" — with hundreds of other scientists and their families. Klages evokes both the big-sky landscape of the Southwest and a community where "everything is secret" with inviting ease and the right details, focusing particularly on the society of the children who live there. Dewey seems comfortable with her own oddness (she's small for her age, slightly lame, and loves inventing mechanical gizmos) and serves as something of an example to another girl, Suze, who has been trying desperately to fit in. Their burgeoning friendship sees them through bouts of taunting, their parents' ceaseless attention to "the gadget," personal tragedy, and of course the test detonation early on July 16, 1945, which the two girls watch from a mesa two hundred miles away: "Dewey could see the colors and patterns of blankets and shirts that had been indistinct grays a second before, as if it were instantly morning, as if the sun had risen in the south, just this once." Cameo appearances are made by such famous names as Richard Feynman (he helps Dewey build a radio) and Robert Oppenheimer, but the story, an intense but accessible page-turner, firmly belongs to the girls and their families; history and story are drawn together with confidence." -The Horn Book Magazine, starred review

Meet the Author

Ellen Klages lives in San Francisco, California.

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Green Glass Sea 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Trey_Miles More than 1 year ago
This book, at first, was very hard for me to read because it was kind of slow getting into a meaningful story. (Also, the cover art was kind of misleading.) Towards the middle and the end of the book is when I truly fell in love with this book. It is a great story of bonding between two completely different girls. The book's theme can be applied to 9/11, in that, the main characters of different backgrounds and lives come together in times of great tragedy and uncertainty. I also like the aspect of the "American" view point of WWII. I would only recommend this book for those who don't know what really to read or can't make up their mind on what to read next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book captured me early on and refused to let go. As a former children's bokseller I have literally read hundreds of children's literature in all genres, and rarely does one stand out so far above others. While the writing does struggle in some parts, the characters shine brightly beyond the pages. I wish I had known Dewey as a child, someone whose curiosity and spunk has you cheering her bravery and yearning to shelter her pain. A standout historical fiction, upon finishing the book I raced to BN.com to find out when the sequel is due out!
jkr More than 1 year ago
This YA historical novel focuses on the end of World War II as seen through the eyes of two adolescent girls. Dewey is a sort of proto-geek, who has to cope with serious hardships of her own as well as the more typical obstacles confronting a girl with mechanical and scientific interests at that time; Suze is a budding artist, outwardly more conformist and with a more "normal" life than Dewey's but with her own challenges and complexities. Both live at Los Alamos because their parents are scientists involved in the development of the atomic bomb. A beautifully written book that provides a fascinating glimpse of the period for those of us too young to have been there, intertwining the girls' individual and social development with the larger political and scientific context. Highly recommended for pre-adolescents and older, especially those of a more intellectual bent and/or interests similar to the protagonists'; its sequel is also well worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There also is another book called white sands,red menice.Dewy's mom comes back and wants to take her.I can wait to start reading it! It looks really good. If you liked the first book you should read the next book.
Karen Baldwin More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absalutly loved this book!!!I checked it out at my local libary and had to buy a copy for myself and my friends!It's a perfect book for learning about World War 2 with a story that warms your heart! An amazing book!!! Must read the sequal!!!!!
Michelle_Palmer More than 1 year ago
Absolutely fantastic!!!! Dewey lives at Los Alamos with her mathematician father during World War II. It is a high security town that nobody knows exists because of the top secret nature of the work being done there. I absolutely loved the charming world developed by the author. The seeming innocence of childhood juxtaposed against the outside world at war. The characters were wonderful, especially Dewey. The setting felt very real and the fact that the author went to the location is obvious in the writing. The relationships are true and at times heartbreakingly realistic. I will be ordering the sequel today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please read this book. It will not dissapoint you. I promise
Longtimer More than 1 year ago
Fantastic! I'm 70, and I enjoyed every word. As a science and history buff, I've read much about this era, but by using a different viewpoint, the author brings it to life like no one else. I bought this book thinking it was a mystery, and along with everything else, it is a mystery like no other. Even though I knew the "ending", I was engrossed throughout.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book a while ago so i don't remember much. But it helped me through a hard time and inspire me to believe in myself. It is a beautiful book and i thunk everyone who love books should read this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing!! I recomend it to anyone that wants a great historical fiction read!!
Rita_Lot More than 1 year ago
This is a great historical fiction story! A great read for those studying or just interested in World War II. Klages captures the 1940s time period and hints at the moral dilemmas behind the creation and use of the nuclear bomb. Throughout the story science, math and the arts are highlighted and key role players in the invention of "the gadget" are mentioned. This story reminds me of "Stand by Me" in how friendships are formed and how the world is seen through young eyes. Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book best book i ever read thanks to the author of the book i would do anything to read it all day long
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the green glass sea. I'm almost done with it and I've liked every word. Heck, I'm only twelve and its awesome. A MUST READ BOOK!
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Noel66 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much that it has become one of my favorites. It is one of those books that changes the way you look at life. Simply amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
my grandmother got me this book for christmas. i wasnt sure if i was gonna actually read it, because she relied no the newspaperto tell her which books are "the best" that year. The green galss sea was actually good, and a nice break from all the stupid love and gossip books i have read recently. This boo kahd a good story line, and since i never learned this in school, i thought it was fiction. I mean a green glass sea. But at the end of the book i learned from the interview with the writer that it was in fact true. This book inspired me to start reading historical fiction.
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