Reviews for Escape to West Berlin
Booklist Reviews 2004 October #2
Gr. 5-8. In this novel set just before the construction of the Berlin Wall, 13-year-old Heidi and her family undertake a risky journey from East Berlin to the city's western sector. East Germany has become increasingly intolerant of citizens thought to embrace capitalist values, and Heidi's dad, who works in West Berlin and wants to keep his well-paying, satisfying job, faces stiff opposition from officials and neighbors who toe the party line. In utmost secrecy, the Klenks plot an escape that becomes more dangerous every day. Her mother and father slip across first, and Heidi and her grandmother plan to follow. Then the government suddenly closes the border. A bit of heavy-handed melodrama ensues as Oma makes it through an unguarded gap, but Heidi is stuck on the barbed wire--literally!--and must make a second attempt via a daring alternate route. Dahlberg's clear desire to convey information about the historical period sometimes slows things down, but she does a good job of weaving a suspenseful plot alongside the details of the cold war. ((Reviewed October 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Spring
In this fast-moving story set in 1961 East Berlin in the weeks leading up to the construction of the Wall, Heidi's parents decide it is time to secretly escape to the West. Heidi's first-person narration keeps readers in a front-row seat to thrilling events, and her voice is very much that of an ordinary and likable young teen rising to the challenge of extraordinary demands. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2004 #6
Historical fiction fans who prefer plot to costumes or atmosphere should enjoy this fast-moving story set in 1961 East Berlin in the weeks leading up to the construction of the Wall. Although she's finally turning thirteen, Heidi is otherwise having a difficult summer: her mother is expecting a baby, meaning the family won't be going away for their usual visit to Heidi's beloved grandmother; her best friend keeps asking Heidi to go swimming, but she's become afraid of the water; her father is facing increased ostracism for working as a "border crosser" in the wealthier Western part of the city. All of these anxieties come together when Heidi's parents decide it is time to secretly escape to the West. Although the imparting of historical context is sometimes awkwardly expository and the action is hyped by coincidence, Heidi's first-person narration keeps readers in a front-row seat to thrilling events, and her voice is very much that of an ordinary and likable young teen rising to the challenge of extraordinary demands. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2004 October #1
East Berlin, 1961. Political and social strife run rampant. For 13-year-old Heidi Klenk and her family, life is becoming increasingly difficult. Her dad's a "border crosser"-someone who lives in the East but works in free West Berlin; as a result, the family's facing harsher government crackdowns. Then comes the shocking news that her parents are making secret plans to flee to the West. Heidi must fetch her grandmother by herself and, when they become separated, must face her terror of swimming-her only means of access to the other side. Many young readers will find it hard to imagine the constraints and privations of such a life. Alas, Heidi's plight should be more gripping and involving. Adding to the disappointment is the lack of an afterword to place in context a period that will seem like ancient history to the audience for which this is intended. Heidi's a relatable character, and her story should be more so. (Fiction. 10+) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Reviews 2004 November
Gr 4-7-It is 1961, and Heidi's 13th summer is filled with disappointments. First her parents cancel their annual trip to her beloved grandmother's farm because Mutter is about to give birth. Then Heidi's father is labeled a "border crosser" because he continues to travel from East Berlin to work in West Berlin. This causes a threat of eviction from their apartment and the loss of her best friend. When an opportunity to defect to the West arises, the only thing standing in the way of her freedom and new life is the Teltow Canal and Heidi's haunting fear of the water. Dahlberg presents a realistic portrayal of the formal separation of East and West Germany and the building of the Berlin Wall. Cultural lessons and German dialect are smoothly incorporated into the narrative. The climax is well timed and, though somewhat obvious, holds readers' attention. Youngsters will also relate to Heidi's emotional struggle with maturity, where episodes of clinging and pouting are intermingled with the desire to be treated like an adult and to be given more independence.-Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2005 February
Tensions are running high during the summer of 1961 in East Berlin. The weather is especially hot, and there are food shortages and rumors that the border between East and West Berlin will soon be closed. Thirteen-year-old Heidi is quite disappointed that the family's annual vacation to her grandparents' farm has been cancelled. When she quarrels with her best friend Petra, they stop speaking. Heidi is also upset that her father is being harassed because he is a border crosser-someone who lives in the East but works in the West. Determined to visit her grandparents, Heidi comes up with a plan that involves her traveling alone. When she approaches her parents, they confess that they have made arrangements to flee East Berlin. The plan unravels when Heidi's mother goes into labor and her grandfather unexpectedly dies. At the end, Heidi's parents are safe in West Berlin, but Heidi and her grandmother are caught on the East side just as the border closes. In a riveting climax, Heidi must trust her estranged friend Petra to get across the border. This memorable book is perhaps the first historical fiction story for youth set during this era. The authentic re-creation of the setting along with credible, realistic characters and a suspenseful and fast-paced plot will satisfy even the most reluctant readers.-Mary Ann Capan 4Q 4P M Copyright 2005 Voya Reviews.