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White Sands, Red Menace Hardcover – October 2, 2008
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5–9—In this sequel to The Green Glass Sea (Viking, 2006), Dewey and the Gordon family have relocated from Los Alamos to Alamogordo, NM, now that World War II is over, because Mr. Gordon has been offered a job to develop rockets for the U.S. government. Dewey and Suze Gordon are comfortable with one another, almost like sisters, and begin eighth grade together at a new school, where they are required to take home economics instead of shop. Suze's mother has had to put her academic career as a chemist on hold and is struggling with her growing estrangement from her husband, based primarily on their different positions about the atomic bomb. But Dewey relishes the close bond that she is developing with Mrs. Gordon, only to have it disrupted by the arrival of her birth mother, who left Dewey and her dad when she was two. Superbly written and rich in detail, Klages's novel once again nails the uncertainty that many Americans experienced after the truths of Hiroshima began to surface. History is intricately woven into the story of these memorable characters, and issues such as self-identity, family, and racism are explored. The desert heat is palpable, the immense expanses are easily visualized, and the roles that women and minorities played in the late 1940s are painfully evident. The only problem is minor—the threat in this volume is not "red" communism, but rather ex-Nazis and the atomic research itself, so the title might mislead readers. Nonetheless, this book is every bit as powerful as its predecessor.—Melissa Moore, Union University Library, Jackson, TN
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Klages’ The Green Glass Sea (2006) won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and in this gripping sequel, set just after World War II, science, mechanics, and politics continue to play a big role in the teen friendship story. Dewey’s atomic-scientist dad has died in a traffic accident, and she has moved in with her friend Suze’s family near Los Alamos. Suze’s dad is driven by his work in the new frantic race to build a rocket (“The first man in space mustn’t be a Russian”), and he fights bitterly with his peacenik wife, Terry, about Hiroshima and the radiation nightmare. There is sometimes too much local detail, but the groundbreaking science is part of daily life for the smart techno-teens, and the adult characters are as compelling as the kids. As Klages said in an interview in the November 2007 issue of Book Links magazine, people are excited about future technology, “and others are afraid that there won’t be a future.” Along with these global issues, Klages’ compelling story explores personal relationships and what it means to be a family. Grades 5-8. --Hazel Rochman
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I am not sure young readers can appreciate this slice of history as much as someone who was alive at the time. Flages manages to revive detailed memories of that strange era when most people's lives seemed to be returning to "normal," but were in fact on a projectory into the unknown and uncertainty.
Klages covers family and its arcane permutations while ably handling adolescence, what it was like to be a nontraditional girl in the 40s, the repercussions of Hiroshima, and how it felt to know that the people your dad worked with had been Nazis in the not too distant past. And a first kiss, too. There were so many balls in the air in this book it makes my mind boggle that the flow of the narrative was seamless. A masterpiece.