Cover image for Cloud and Wallfish / Anne Nesbet.
Cloud and Wallfish / Anne Nesbet.
Publication Information:
Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press, 2018.

Physical Description:
385 pages ; 21 cm


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
NES Paperback Junior Paperback Fiction
NES Paperback Junior Paperback Fiction

On Order



Slip behind the Iron Curtain into a world of smoke, secrets, and lies in this stunning novel where someone is always listening and nothing is as it seems.

Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn't really Noah and he didn't really just turn eleven in March. And he can't even ask them why -- not because of his Astonishing Stutter, but because asking questions is against the newly instated rules. (Rule Number Two: Don't talk about serious things indoors, because Rule Number One: They will always be listening). As Noah--now "Jonah Brown"--and his parents head behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the rules and secrets begin to pile up so quickly that he can hardly keep track of the questions bubbling up inside him: Who, exactly, is listening -- and why? When did his mother become fluent in so many languages? And what really happened to the parents of his only friend, Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives downstairs? In an intricately plotted novel full of espionage and intrigue, friendship and family, Anne Nesbet cracks history wide open and gets right to the heart of what it feels like to be an outsider in a world that's impossible to understand.

Author Notes

Anne Nesbet is the author of the novels The Cabinet of Earths, A Box of Gargoyles, and The Wrinkled Crown. Her books have received starred reviews and have been selected for the Kids' Indie Next List, Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best list, and the Bank Street College Best Children's Books of the Year list. An associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Anne Nesbet lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Nesbet's (The Wrinkled Crown) author's note ("Some books live on the history shelves, and other books are fiction-but Cloud & Wallfish has deep roots in both") captures the essence of this intricately detailed story of an American boy forced to move to East Berlin in 1989. Eleven-year-old Noah Keller is shocked when his family abruptly relocates to communist-controlled Germany and even more surprised when his parents change his name and birthday. Before entering the city, his parents lay out important rules, including "Don't ever talk about serious things indoors" and "Don't call attention to yourself." Noah's self-described "Astonishing Stutter" isolates him until he meets his adventurous neighbor, Claudia. With her help, Noah unravels why his parents are acting strangely and what happened to Claudia's dead parents. Through Noah's innocent but perceptive eyes, readers receive a first-hand look at this secretive and highly controlled world. Post-chapter "Secret Files" provide fascinating historical context, but the story's heart lies in the friendship between Claudia and Noah, and in the lengths loved ones will go to in order to break down even the most formidable walls. Ages 10-14. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Noah Kellers life in 1989 small-town Virginia is uneventfuluntil the day his parents pick him up after school and whisk him off to East Berlin, where, he is told, his PhD candidate mother will be researching childrens speech challenges such as his own persistent stutter. Similar to Alices trip through the looking glass (Alice is the only book hes allowed to bring with him), everything turns topsy-turvy. His parents tell him his name is now Jonah Brown; give him a photo album full of images of the family living a different life; and impose a set of rules to follow, most especially Rule Number One: They will always be listening. They are East Germanys secret police, and Noah quickly learns that they are indeed everywhere. As the novel unfolds, the secrets keep piling up. Theres the girl downstairs staying with her grandmother because her parents have mysteriously died: Claudia, whom he nicknames Cloud (while she calls him Wallfish, which sounds like the German word for whale, playing off his new name and the Berlin Wall that separates them from the rest of the world). And what about Noahs mother? There is growing evidence that she may not be what he thinks she is (The Americans, anyone?). In this atmospheric page-turner set just as the Iron Curtain begins to lift, Nesbet deftly ratchets up the tension, using a close third-person omniscient narration to keep readers experiencing one unnerving event after another, just as Noah does. Scattered throughout are Secret File sidebars with facts and information about East Germany and the Cold War at that time. This is edgy, dramatic, and emotionally rich historical fiction that provides a vivid look into an extraordinary moment in history. monica edinger (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.