Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke - OPTIONAL

Locke, Katherine The Girl with the Red Balloon, 277 pages. Albert Whitman and Company, 2017. $10. Language: R (50 swears, 15 f’s); Mature Content: PG-13/R; Violence: R.

Ellie Baum is on a school trip to Berlin with her class when she sees a red balloon floating in a park. A red balloon, just like the one her Saba told her about from when he escaped the Nazis during WWII. Ellie reaches out to grab the balloon and finds herself transported back to East Berlin in 1988. She is taken in by the Runners and Schopfers who use magic balloons to help people escape to freedom in West Berlin. Working along-side them, Ellie learns more of her own family history and of the oppression that has followed her Jewish ancestors for generations. As the days stretch into weeks and months, Ellie comes to realize she may never find a way back home. 

As a debut novel, author Katherine Locke combines many elements into one story: WWII, the genocide of Jews and Romanichal gypsies, LGBTQIA, magic, time travel, teen romance, and the question of the morality of killing a few to save the many. The beginning of the book is a bit rough with words sometimes seeming ill-placed on the pages. The roughness quickly falls away, however, and the story flows effortlessly as the reader becomes wrapped up in the lives of the characters. The flow continues right up to the end of the book and then it comes to a screeching halt. The story needs two more chapters, or at least an epilogue. The reader deserves more than what is given as a close to the story. Locke’s next Balloonmakers book will come out in 2018 but it is a companion to the current book, not a sequel. Leaving behind my frustration with the end of the story, I really liked the portion of this book that was told through the perspective of Ellie’s Saba as he survived the holocaust. I also give Locke credit for taking such a bold step of using the history of oppression in Germany and giving it hope through the use of magic. Despite its drawbacks, I still recommend this book as worthy of being on the shelves of a high school library.

HS - OPTIONAL (ratings).  LMA, future elementary school teacher

No comments: