Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet;
Candlewick Press, 2016; $16.99
Who knew that a regular-looking book could have such an impact on readers and how they view the world? Going into Cloud and Wallfish, a historical fiction novel, I was a bit doubtful on how Anne Nesbet was going to weave such a tragic and complex topic like the Berlin Wall into youth literature. However, all my doubts were diminished after reading this wonderfully written novel. While this story is geared towards youth, it still thrums with ever-important themes of finding who you are and remaining loyal to your friends, even through tough times.
Set in 1989, Noah Keller, the main protagonist, had always lead an ordinary American life. That is, until his parents announce that his name is Jonah, not Noah, and that they will be moving to East Berlin. At the time, Germany was divided into two countries: East Germany and West Germany. In East Germany, the country that Noah moves to, there are many complications. Noah isn't free to discuss anything in his apartment, nor is he allowed to question his government. Most of his days are lonely, until he meets “Cloud” Claudia, who lives in the same apartment with her grandmother. The strange part? Her parents have disappeared, and nobody seems to know why.
This book taught me a few moral lessons, namely about loyalty. In the novel, Noah gets separated from Claudia, ending up on West Berlin with Claudia in East Berlin. Everybody tells Noah that he will never see his friend ever again, but Noah perseveres, standing on the platform in West Berlin that overlooks East Berlin. For weeks, he holds a sign with a message for his friend, to no avail. Finally, right when Noah was about to give up, he sees Claudia again and is able to show her his message, which is: “I have not forgotten you, Cloud!” This shows that you should never give up on your goal, and Noah also demonstrates what it means to remain loyal to your friends.
Cloud and Wallfish didn’t just teach me moral lessons—it also had relatable characters. I personally can identify with this situation that Noah and Claudia are in. When I was younger, my best friend moved across the country. I was scared that our friendship would drift apart on account of the distance between us, which resonates with Claudia’s fear of being forgotten. As I feared, we drifted apart, due to the distance between us. However, this book inspired me to make more of an effort to keep in touch, and to show my friend that I, too, had not forgotten her.
In addition, I also related to Noah’s fear of speaking in class. Noah was born with a stutter, so during school, he wouldn’t express his opinions frequently in fear of being teased or laughed at. I don’t have a stutter, but it can be hard sometimes to speak up in class simply because I’m afraid of what others may think. However, towards the end of the novel, Noah learns to speak up despite what others may think, which also inspired me to share my opinions more frequently in class.
Though it's juvenile fiction, I believe that everyone should read this book, even adults. It is at once a poignant novel about friendship and family, a historical fiction, and a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I know that this book changed my life—why not let it change yours, too?