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A Night Divided

Last updated Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Date of Publication: 2015
ISBN: 0545682428
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2016

Synopsis: With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can't help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

Note to readers:
•  The book is long and you will not finish. It is a moving book full of action as it progresses. Read as far as you can and try to get through Chapter 5, page 34. You are reading to 5th graders and they may be aware of the recent idea to build a wall separating the US from Mexico. Do not be afraid to ask them whether they think a wall is a good or bad idea or how it may affect them. Use the globe or map in the room to show them where the Berlin wall used to be.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What do you see on the front cover?
•  Why do you think people build fences between two places?
•  Do you think fences are made to keep people in or keep people out?


embrace--hug; invalid--someone who is very sick and cannot care for themselves; famine--hungry; ceasing--ending; shudder--shake from fear; terse--short and to the point; durable--long lasting

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Why do you think people wanted to leave to the West?
•  Would you have left part of your family to move to a better place?
•  Would you have tried to stop the government from building the wall? How?
•  The Berlin Wall was almost 90 miles long and erected overnight. Where would you build a wall that big?

Craft ideas:
•  In this book, Gerta missed her father very much and remembered the special things he did for her. Make a Father's Day card and list or draw the special things your father does for you.
•  Draw a picture of a place or world without walls and barriers.
•  Check out our June craft ideas on Pinterest! https://www.pinterest.com/readingtokids/june-2016/

Special activities:
•  Play Red Rover--a game about getting to the other side.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!