Thursday, February 08, 2018

When Mom And Dad Are Spies

I'm a fan of The Americans, the FX series about a couple who are undercover Russian operatives in the U.S. in the 1980s. (Because that would never happen now.) Philip and Elizabeth live as a comfortable suburban couple who run a business together. Their teenage children have not been raised in their real business.

At some points the question of what will become of Philip and Elizabeth arises. Will they go back to ol' Mother Russia? What about those kids? Last year I was thinking that a YA book about a kid who was ripped out of his comfortable American life and dragged to a Communist country with parents, who, they just learned, were strangers had some promise. Then I stumbled upon Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbit, which is about a boy who finds out his name isn't his name and his birthday isn't his birthday and he and his parents are packing up to move to East Berlin. In 1989.

Noah/Jonah's parents are a lot more light-hearted than The American's Philip and Elizabeth. But there's no doubt there's something going on with them. Noah/Jonah doesn't know everything about them, but they don't know know everything about him, either.

Every chapter in Cloud and Wallfish concludes with a "Secret File" explaining  historical material. They're like extensive footnotes. Now I like reading historical background. But it did break up the narrative drive of the story. I don't know how younger readers will feel about it. Nonetheless, this should be a great read for a student needing a book for a historical unit.

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