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The Green Glass Sea Hardcover – October 19, 2006

52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In November 1943, 10-year-old budding inventor Dewey Kerrigan sets off on a cross-country train ride to be with her father, who is engaged in "war work." She is busy designing a radio when a fellow passenger named Dick Feynman offers to help her. Feynman's presence in this finely wrought first novel is the first clue that Dewey is headed for Los Alamos. The mystery and tension surrounding "war work" and what Dewey knows only as "the gadget" trickles down to the kids living in the Los Alamos compound, who often do without adult supervision. Although disliked by her girl classmates, "Screwy Dewey" enjoys Los Alamos. There are lots of people to talk with about radios (including "Oppie"), and she has the wonderful opportunity to dig through the nearby dump for discarded science stuff. However, when Dewey's father leaves for Washington, she is left to fend off the biggest bully in Los Alamos. The novel occasionally gets mired down in detail, but the characters are exceptionally well drawn, and the compelling, unusual setting makes a great tie-in for history classes. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670061344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670061341
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,249,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Juday VINE VOICE on January 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
THE GREEN GLASS SEA is a beautifully written novel. I am recommending it to friends that like good writing. In bookstores, this will likely be shelved in the Young Adult section, and may also be associated with the Science Fiction section. I think people who read in those genres will both enjoy this book.

Beyond that, I think that anyone who enjoys good writing will find this story of two girls during World War II simply bewitching. One is a budding scientist, the other a budding artist, and neither "fits in" with the popular kids at school. The story of their struggles with these issues is folded in to the place and time where they live, and the impact that World War II is having on them and on everyone they know.

I liked this book so, so much. Every single character had a voice that I believed. THE GREEN GLASS SEA made me smile, and it brought tears to my eyes. It was the kind of read I always hope for but do not always find. I liked it so much I read it again after a bit, to see if it was as good as I hoped. It is.

Ellen Klages is a treasure, and I hope to read more of her books. I highly, highly recommend THE GREEN GLASS SEA.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By G. Cochran on March 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A middle grade novel that adults will also love, The Green Glass Sea is an endearing tale set on the Los Alamos base during World War II. When ten-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is sent to New Mexico to join her father, a scientist working on the Manhattan Project, she doesn't realize that she is also joining a small community of families whose lives revolve around the development of the top secret "gadget". But Dewey adjusts quickly to her new world. She's thrilled to be near her father again and to be in an environment that provides her with unlimited resources for building her own mechanical projects, her favorite hobby. Brainy and small for her age, Dewey soon finds that she's a misfit even in the world in which she feels she so belongs. Yet she doesn't let this bother her. That is, until her father is sent away on an important mission and Dewey is forced to share a room - and some of her deepest secrets - with her biggest enemy.

Readers will fall in love with Dewey's sweet, unassuming nature and with Klages' splendid writing, which captures the innocence, vulnerability, and resilience of childhood. Klages creates a world that is extremely unique yet somehow very familiar, and she perfectly portrays this world through the perspective of a child. Her carefully chosen details are described in a simple, understated manner that expertly blends historical fiction and coming-of-age tale. Though quiet, Klages' story brings to life a setting and cast of characters that will stay with you long after you've finished her book.

The Green Glass Sea is a novel for young readers that is actually for a young audience yet will also be loved by adults. I highly recommend it to all readers over the age of nine.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By K. Roman VINE VOICE on October 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The Green Glass Sea is a coming of age story that focuses on two girls and their experiences growing up at the super secret Los Alamos military camp during WWII. The girls reluctantly become friends as they experience the fears, uncertainties, and losses that come with war. Some fascinating aspects of the story are the relationship between the girls and the camp authorities, the brilliant scientists, and even their parents. It touches on the larger issues associated with nuclear weapons. Karen Woodworth Roman, Reference Librarian
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Martinufan on September 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm surprised that no reviewer has yet mentioned the understated and downplayed ending of this book (which I won't give away). Suffice it to say that the author concludes the book with subtle irony, leaving the reader to think through profound implications that form the backdrop of this story. I appreciate her restraint, as the novel eschews the more obvious heavy-handed approach, and leaves you pondering unanswerable questions.

At times, I felt the novel was a bit formulaic - misfits face down the school bully, the requisite family tragedy - but the author also skillfully sidesteps some routine bathetic outcomes we have "seen coming" in books of lesser caliber.

In historical fiction, integrating the story to the setting is essential, and I believe the author got it about 80% right. Unfortunately, there were occasions when I got the feeling that this story could have taken place in a number of generic settings. The historical references are sometimes sprinkled through the text a bit self-consciously (reminding me somewhat of the "artificial nostalgia" prevalent in the film, My Dog Skip), but overall, she conveys a genuine sense of time and place.

I would recommend this book for middle-schoolers as a good fictional introduction to the dawn of the atomic age.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Herold on December 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Ellen Klages's "The Green Glass Sea" is one part historical novel, one part coming-of-age tale, and one part fish-out-of-water story. As a whole, "The Green Glass Sea" is an intelligent, thought-provoking novel for kids ages 10 to 15.

Ten-year-old Dewey Kerrigan's grandmother has had a stroke, and Dewey is sent by train to her father. Her father is a scientist, employed in top-secret work during World War II. Dewey thinks she'll be headed to Chicago, her father's last location as far as she knew, and is surprised when she discovers her train is headed to New Mexico. And, soon, Dewey finds herself living in crummy army housing on the top-secret Los Alamos base.

Dewey is instantly happy in Los Alamos. She's the type of girl who likes to build mechanical objects and is thrilled to find a dump with discarded metal pieces of all shapes and sorts. Her school is also good: she's allowed to take high school math, even though she's just 11 years old. She's finally living with her father and enjoys taking care of him after his long days at the lab.

In a parallel story, 11-year-old Suze is having a hard time adjusting to the base. Her father also works on the top-secret project and so does her mother, peripherally, as a "stinker" (chemist). She tries to make friends with the other girls on the base, but it's to no avail. They find Suze not girly enough and too large, calling her "Truck" behind her back.

Suze and Dewey's lives collide when Dewey's father is summoned near the end of the war to Washington D.C. Dewey's father arranges for Dewey to stay with Suze and her parents (the Gordons) while he'll be away. At first the girls dislike each other actively, but Dewey's at least relieved because she likes Mrs.
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