Praise for Ellen's Books
Klages' stories contain marvels--small, strange
things lurking on the edges of normal life. In the Nebula
Award-winning "Basement Magic," a cleaning lady
and a little girl build a friendship around housework and
magic. "In the House of the Seven Librarians,"
which closes the book, is a charmer about the unconventional
upbringing of a child raised by feral librarians. Not
all the stories are particularly concerned with childhood.
In "Time Gypsy," a woman travels to the past to
recover a paper on time travel that was never delivered and
instead discovers the failures of history... Klages creates
wonder-filled and beautiful worlds in her short stories, making
this a tremendously satisfying collection.
Publisher's Weekly (starred
whose debut novel, Green Glass Sea (2006), won the Scott O'Dell
Award for Historical Fiction, demonstrates both superior writing
skill and a wide range in an impressive short story collection
that defies easy categorization. The 16 selections, three
of which are original to the volume, include moving mainstream
tales of human relationships, like the title story, about
a mother and daughter, as well as fantasy and science fiction.
The author is equally adept at short, twisty narratives that
make the most of premises that could be gimmicks in lesser
hands, like the recursive "Mobius, Stripped of a Muse."This
collection will linger in the memory long after reading, and
should help garner a larger audience for Klages's forthcoming
second novel. (May)
The Green Glass Sea
• Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Klages makes an impressive debut with
an ambitious, meticulously researched novel set during WWII.
Writing from the points of view of two displaced children,
she successfully recreates life at Los Alamos Camp, where
scientists and mathematicians converge with their families
to construct and test the first nuclear bomb. Eleven-year-old
Dewey, the daughter of a math professor, is shunned by the
other girls at the camp due to her passionate interest in
mechanics and her fascination with the dump, which holds
all sorts of mechanisms and tools she can use for her projects.
Her classmate Suze is also often snubbed and has been nicknamed
"Truck" by her classmates ("'cause she's
kind of big and likes to push people around," explains
one boy). The two outcasts reluctantly come together when
Dewey's father is called away to Washington, D.C., and Dewey
temporarily moves in with Suze's family. Although the girls
do not get along at first (Suze draws a chalk line in her
room to separate their personal spaces), they gradually
learn to rely on each other for comfort, support and companionship.
Details about the era-popular music, pastimes and products-add
authenticity to the story as do brief appearances of some
historic figures including Robert Oppenheimer....the author
provides much insight into the controversies surrounding
the making of the bomb and brings to life the tensions of
war experienced by adults and children alike.
Dewey, ten, embarks alone on a
mysterious train trip from her grandmother's home in St. Louis to New Mexico,
where she will rejoin her often-absent mathematician father. It's 1943, and
Dewey's dad is working at Los Alamos -- "the Hill" -- with hundreds of other
scientists and their families. Klages evokes both the big-sky landscape of the
Southwest and a community where "everything is secret" with inviting ease and
the right details, focusing particularly on the society of the children who live
there. Dewey seems comfortable with her own oddness (she's small for her age,
slightly lame, and loves inventing mechanical gizmos) and serves as something of
an example to another girl, Suze, who has been trying desperately to fit in.
Their burgeoning friendship sees them through bouts of taunting, their parents'
ceaseless attention to "the gadget," personal tragedy, and of course the test
detonation early on July 16, 1945, which the two girls watch from a mesa two
hundred miles away: "Dewey could see the colors and patterns of blankets and
shirts that had been indistinct grays a second before, as if it were instantly
morning, as if the sun had risen in the south, just this once." Cameo
appearances are made by such famous names as Richard Feynman (he helps Dewey
build a radio) and Robert Oppenheimer, but the story, an intense but accessible
page-turner, firmly belongs to the girls and their families; history and story
are drawn together with confidence.
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....
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.
In November of 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’s 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 gets to dig through the dump for discarded
science stuff. However, when Dewey’s father leaves for Washington,
she’s left to fend off the biggest bully in Los Alamos....The
characters are exceptionally well drawn, and the compelling,
unusual setting makes a great tie-in for history classes.