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The Gordon Family Saga #1

The Green Glass Sea

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It is 1943, and 11-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is traveling west on a train to live with her scientist father, but no one, not her father nor the military guardians who accompany her, will tell her exactly where he is. When she reaches Los Alamos, New Mexico, she learns why: he's working on a top secret government program. Over the next few years, Dewey gets to know eminent scientists, starts tinkering with her own mechanical projects, becomes friends with a budding artist who is as much of a misfit as she is and, all the while, has no idea how the Manhattan Project is about to change the world. This book's fresh prose and fascinating subject are like nothing you've read before.

324 pages, Hardcover

First published October 19, 2006

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About the author

Ellen Klages

69 books229 followers
Ellen Klages was born in Ohio, and now lives in San Francisco.

Her short fiction has appeared in science fiction and fantasy anthologies and magazines, both online and in print, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Black Gate, and Firebirds Rising. Her story, "Basement Magic," won the Best Novelette Nebula Award in 2005. Several of her other stories have been on the final ballot for the Nebula and Hugo Awards, and have been reprinted in various Year’s Best volumes.

She was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, and is a graduate of the Clarion South writing workshop.

Her first novel The Green Glass Sea, about two misfit eleven-year-old girls living in Los Alamos during WWII, while their parents are creating the atomic bomb, came out in October 2006 from Sharyn November at Viking. Ellen is working on a sequel.

She has also written four books of hands-on science activities for children (with Pat Murphy, et al.) for the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco.

In addition to her writing, she serves on the Motherboard of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, and is somewhat notorious as the auctioneer/entertainment for the Tiptree auctions at Wiscon.

When she's not writing fiction, she sells old toys and magazines on eBay, and collects lead civilians.

from ellenklages.com

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,034 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,734 reviews1,200 followers
December 17, 2008
Some time needs to elapse for me to see if this book makes as much of an imprint on me as it now seems, but this is one I might consider for my favorites shelf.

In this novel everything so vivid: the feelings and thoughts and actions of the characters, the many descriptions of food, the train ride, the community, the terrain, the record albums, so much, all of it.

The author is a terrific storyteller, and this is a perfectly crafted book.

I loved the main character Dewey. In real life I would have hated being in that place at that time with those people, but as a reader I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the people and at the places in the book.

There’s a bibliography of suggested books written about the creation of the atomic bomb at the end of the book.

I’m glad that there’s a sequel to this book. It’s titled White Sands, Red Menace, but I’m a little afraid to read it because The Green Glass Sea might be in my top 100 favorite books of all time, that’s how much I loved it, and I’m not sure I'll feel so positively about the sequel.

The author is local, living in San Francisco, and I’d like to see her become a Goodreads author – I messaged her and made that request.
Profile Image for Jane Lebak.
Author 36 books374 followers
August 19, 2018
This book, it strikes me, is everything wrong with children's literature. As an adult book it would be a four-star book, but as a children's book it's a 2-star book.


Summary: two awkward girls meet at the army base in Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project and eventually become friends.

That's the whole plot, right there. ^^ The characters are good, but children who are reading stories aren't really in it for the lush landscape descriptions or the deep introspections on what adults might be thinking. The book survives at all because of the glancing references to things adults would know but children, the target audience, would not. Richard Feynmann shows up, and he's a nice guy. Do kids know who he is? Well maybe if they're reading this book as a companion to a unit on World War II. But otherwise, no, it falls flat. He shows up on the train in the beginning, is nice, and then never shows up again.

Without that kind of nudge-nudge-wink-wink at the adult reader, the book would have no reason to exist. Moreover, the author is working hard to create an idealized childhood in the confines of what we consider to be hellish and nonidealized (a good idea) but that's not something a nine year old reader is going to care much about. Nine year old readers want adventures, not a theoretical construct of idealized childhood. They want a clear ending, not the story kind of petering out to a stop because we've finally reached the location where the title takes place.

Who enjoys that? Adults do. Adults will say, "Wow, in the shadow of the bomb, these children are free and create something of their own paradise." And adults will say, "Oh, we know the horrors of the A-bomb" and "we get all these references." And when people are sitting around deciding literary awards for children's fiction, who's on the panel? A group of nine year olds and ten year olds who had to read this book as part of their unit on WWII? No, it's a group of editors, literary agents, and literary authors who discuss the consciousness-raising aspects of the work without saying, "If Grandma Julia wraps this up and gives it to Susie for Christmas under the tree, is Susie going to like it?"

And that's the kicker: an adult looking for a Christmas gift might pick out this book because it's award-winning etc etc, and then if the kid attempts to read it, the kid feels meh about it. Nothing really happens in the story as far as the kid is concerned because the real work is taking place in the subtext, the context, the themes, and the tone.

The main characters are eleven. I've been told repeatedy by editors that kids read upward (sigh) meaning they must think the ideal audience is nine or ten years old...?

Books like this kill children's love of reading. This is the reason people will come to me unprovoked and say, "I don't read, but I know I should." This is the reason people stare at me in line at the Post Office if I'm reading while waiting. Reading is a chore; it's something you do because it's good for you; it's like flossing or doing sit-ups. There are no hobby flossists, and they find it equally weird that there are hobby readers.

(BTW, the easy comparison here is The Book Thief, which is a great book. Also with a child protagonist; also set during WWII; also with adult themes etc etc etc; but not directly aimed at children even though I know children who've read it multiple times. The Book Thief also had more going on plotwise. That's a great book, so go read The Book Thief instead. The other potential comparison would be Lord of the Flies, except the childhood society the kids construct isn't developed enough to make it a sociological study of human nature. In fact, after Suze confronts the bully, nothing happens as a result of it. But I was forced to read Lord of the Flies in grammar school AND middle school, and I hated every minute of it both times. Hah.)

I read this as an adult and found it interesting; I will not pass it along to any of my kids even though they're readers.
Profile Image for CLM.
2,631 reviews178 followers
December 17, 2008
It was foolish of me to think reading one chapter late last night was a good idea. I read the whole book, and sobbed. It was late enough when I started. Sigh.

What an unusual topic, and how vividly depicted and beautifully written. I loved Dewey's interaction with real people, not overdone but very convincing. Lots of little touches were fascinating, as for instance, the difficulty applying to college from a school that didn't exist, or the casual description of a five cent package of Koolaid as a treat. I also liked that Suze, although clueless about science, was closer to guessing what was going on than Dewey, and I appreciated the underplayed ending. Some authors, even talented ones, can't resist being cutesy - I am thinking of the talented Gladys Malvern in which some historical character in early AD mutters to another something like, "These Christians, they'll never constitute a critical mass, it's just a passing fad." That breaks the mood, by interjecting the author into the story.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
4,555 reviews177 followers
Want to read
April 4, 2011
I need to read this book! The paperback version includes the author's Scott O'Dell acceptance speech, which has one of my favorite statements about historical fiction:

"A lot of people think history is boring. It's just names and dates and facts that you have to memorize for a test...Up until last October, I was primarily a science fiction writer. Which means I'm in a unique position to recognize that this -- [holds up The Green Glass Sea] -- is a time machine. Because that's really what we want out of historical fiction. We want to go there. We don't want to be on the outside, looking in. We want the backstage tour. We want to be there as the events of history are unfolding around us.

...If you accept that this [book] is a time machine, then there's one thing that you need to know, the one unbreakable law of time travel -- you cannot change the past.

But I hope that when you close the cover of The Green Glass Sea, and return to your own life, you may discover that the past has changed you."
Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,649 reviews124 followers
March 31, 2022
Exceptionally interesting

I thoroughly enjoyed “Green Glass Sea.” It put a couple of family situations in the middle of the building of the atomic bomb, the Manhattan project.

Not only was it a good story it also showed the impacts of such a powerful weapon.
Profile Image for Luann.
1,277 reviews119 followers
February 4, 2009
When I was in high school, I did an extra credit report on Oppenheimer, "Little Boy," and "Fat Man." It was all new to me, and so interesting and horrifying that I have always been very interested in that area of history. This is a work of historical fiction about the scientists who worked on the atomic bomb and their families. It is told from the point of view of the children, who were not given many details of the highly classified project and thus not many details make it into the story. The bomb is a looming presence in the story, though, only because the reader has knowledge that the characters do not.

Ultimately, the book is about its characters - who are written so well that I would immediately recognize them if I met them. Especially Dewey! What a great character! Not only do I really like her, but I'm so happy to find a girl protagonist who is good at math and likes to build and invent things. There aren't enough of those in children's literature. Not that I'm good at math, necessarily, but I want girls who ARE good at math and science to be encouraged.

I liked this book a lot, and highly recommend it!
Profile Image for Rachael .
488 reviews29 followers
May 20, 2017
When I picked up this book, I was SO excited to read it because while I've read a lot of novels set during WWII, I've never really thought about the scientists (or their families) who worked on developing the "gadget." The unusual nature of the setting, and the "casting" of Dewey Kerrigan, a techie little girl who has spent so much of her childhood alone, really intrigued me. And there were aspects of this book that I liked, but given my anticipation, I was disappointed in this book.

Why? I thought the ending was way too ambiguous, with no real explanation of the aftermath of the bomb being dropped on Japan. In reality, this event changed the whole world! The book jacket says that Klages is working on a sequel-- will she deal with that, or skip ahead? I also thought it strange that in 3 places, Klages switches from writing in past tense to writing in present tense. Is there some deep meaning in that or is it just bad editing?

Additionally, it's just a personal preference of mine, but I didn't like that Dewey had to endure so much tragedy while Suze's life, though not perfect is not nearly so affected by the war. Dewey is such a likeable character, and I wanted her to have the happiness she deserved. Without giving too much away, Klages' handling of Dewey's emotional reaction to the biggest tragedy is sensitive and realistic, but the author really doesn't handle *any* of the legal or logistical/formal repercussions. To me, that hurt the credibility of the "plot twist."

I think this book is listed as YA, although the publisher lists it as for ages 9 and up. So as I read this, it was very striking how every adult in the book seems to smoke and/or drink alcohol on a regular basis. I've never noticed that so much in a children's or YA novel before. It felt jarring and strange, even if it fit the time period. Certainly my grandparents, who were close to the ages of the parents in this book, smoked and had their cocktails. But it just seemed really odd that so much attention was paid to it. Was she just trying to illustrate how stressed out all these scientists were?

Finally, it really irritated me how often Suze's parents took the Lord's name in vain. It just really didn't seem necessary to me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sarah.
855 reviews36 followers
March 10, 2008
I really wanted to like this book. Really. Unfortunately, I didn't. The historical setting of Los Alamos was intriguing, but I had qualms with the plot and its predicatbility. It moved rather slowly for me and also didn't say enough about how devastating the Gadget was.


I couldn't understand for the life of me why the Gadget's effects of creating the Green Glass Sea were supposed to be a fitting last connection between Dewey and her father. This turn of events didn't sit well with me as they seemed to negate the destruction and damage the Gadget could do.
Profile Image for J.
18 reviews
August 20, 2008
Dewey’s dad is a scientist and ever since WWII began, he’s been helping the government with a top secret project. When Dewey’s grandma has a stroke, she travels by herself to a secret military base in New Mexico. Even though she’s only ten years old, she has always liked math and science and making her own little projects from stray gears and nuts and bolts. Along with her leg brace and glasses, this makes her an easy target for other kids to pick on her.

At the new base where she lives with her dad, the other girls call her “Screwy Dewey” just because she’s smart and different. Mostly she doesn’t care, but when her dad is sent to Washington D.C. on official business, Dewey has to move in with another family and their ten-year-old girl, Suze. Suze and Dewey are not friends and this makes their living arrangement kind of hostile at first. But eventually other events happen that lead them to become friends. Then the worst thing in the world happens to Dewey.

While all this is happening, the scientists on the secret base have been working on a “gadget”, a top secret project that will “end the war”.

The “green glass sea” is a term given to the crater blasted into the desert ground by the first atomic blast in New Mexico. The gadget is a nuclear bomb and it does end the war, but at a tremendous cost to it’s creators and victims.

If you want to see actual photos of the green glass sea, just google it in the images search. You can even buy pieces of the green glass online. This book really covers the nuclear subject from a different perspective and I found it an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Brooke W.
124 reviews200 followers
February 19, 2021
The Green Glass Sea was thoroughly enjoyable. I'm not normally a fan of historical fiction but The Green Glass Sea was so much fun and engaging!

I felt very invested in the characters. I loved seeing them grow and face hardships of the war. The characters were well written and I enjoyed each perspective! The friendship between the two main characters is so sweet and I like both of their stories and developments.

Plot: While it wasn't very complicated and not the focus of the book I can still tell that Klages put thought into it. I haven't read books with a plot, characters, focus, and message like this one. I loved reading a book from the point of girls who live with their families on military bases. It's so original and creative!

I would definitely recommend The Green Glass Sea- especially to historical fiction lovers. It's not necessary that you read the sequels and the first book is the best one in my opinion. I felt so immersed in this book!
Profile Image for Hanne.
583 reviews40 followers
July 25, 2021
READ 2 (July 25, 2021)-
I was a little nervous rereading this book, because I remembered LOVING this book when I was younger, and I was really afraid of it not holding up. I'm pleased to announce it is still one of my all time favorite books, AND it made me cry just as hard the second time around.

Rereading books, especially with such a big time gap, is so funny to me because I don't remember anything, yet everything feels vaguely familiar? It's like deja vu but in storyform. I didn't remember most of the major plot points, but I remembered a lot of the more minor ones, and everything felt really familiar.

Some highlights:
-it made me cry at 16% of the way into the book, which might be some sort of record
-I'm absolutely YELLING at the power move it is to just,,,name and character drop RICHARD FEYNMAN 10 pages into the book
-also the same for oppenheimer and enrico fermi like WHAT i understand it's historically accurate but omg
-dewey (the main protagonist) is the most precious character in the world. she's smart and precocious, but in an innocent sort of way and with a lot of understanding of the world. The way she narrates is EVERYTHING and I love her as a narrator.
-dewey's dad is the best character in the world and I will stand on that with my life
-also there /were/ some ~untasteful~ descriptors and phrases, including the word n*gro to refer to some black people, "gimp," referring to dewey's disability, and another word that isn't coming to me right now. historically, it was accurate, and i'm not opposed to it, but some people might care
-speaking of that though, dewey is disabled! though there isn't a /ton/ of emphasis on it, there is a disabled MC who gets asked about her leg (and bullied) so I do like that representation, because it was otherwise irrelevant to the story
-the character development and the plot timing in this book is EVERYTHING
-suze was SUCH an annoying character but honestly she's the most relatable one in the whole book
-the relationship between dewey and suze was so precious!!!!
-suze's mom was INCREDIBLE and I want to be that kind of mom someday: the kind to work on science with your kids' friends, to make them hot chocolate, to sit and eat a sandwich while they work and ask you questions?? GOALS
-about the plot,
-also there was quite a bit of language in this book, but i didn't mind it: some d-s and some gd-s for those wondering
-the ties in to history were incREDIBLE and I loved it. maybe a little tongue in cheek in places? but I loved it
-most iconic last line of any book i have ever read in my life

also to echo 2016 me, I have just found out there is a third book in this series and my life is made. but first, white sands, red menace

READ 1 (August 14, 2016)-
*waves frantically in the air and shoves in everyone's faces*

Never mind that it was a school book--it's now on my favorites shelf. Why?

It's historical fiction, WHICH IS OBVIOUSLY THE BEST
Then, it's WWII, which I'm a sucker for...
And then, it's sciency, which makes everything the besttttt
AND THEN, it's friendship and girls and people and wwii and EVERYTHING
And that ending was soooooo well planned and play omgns

And then the kicker.
It. Made. Me. Cry.
*mic drop*

Profile Image for Emily.
849 reviews140 followers
January 19, 2010
(Please note: since I'm assuming that only someone who has read the book would want to read a review hidden on account of spoilers, I'm not going to spend anytime describing the book's premise.)

Would have given this one 3.5 stars if I could have. The ending, with the trip to the green glass sea, and then the announcement on the radio turned off at the last moment, still haunts me. I've perused a few of the other reviews, and noticed that many people fault this book for not putting across more forcefully the devastation the atomic bombs wrought, but the fact that Klages barely touches on the horror of atomic warfare -- which the characters in the book are of course largely ignorant of -- ironically makes the book more powerful in its subtlety. Perhaps someone ignorant of the events of Aug. 6th (or Aug. 5th in the time zone in which the story is taking place) would glide right over the ending and be unmoved by it. It does require the reader to bring some knowledge to the book for it to really work. On a similar note, one reviewer thought it was wrong or at least inappropriate for Dewey to take a piece of the glass and to think of it as her father's last gift to her, but again, I found this to be subtle and heart-breaking. I didn't need to be told that atomic warfare is bad. I know that. And this is a story told from Dewey's point of view, and as chilling as the thought of that glass is, at the same time her father's genius and the abstract beauty of science are a part of it. It's complicated and devastating, just like life.

So why didn't I give this book more stars? Because I found the plotting quite predictable. When the good bye between Dewey and her father was so emotional and drawn out, I knew right then he wasn't coming back. When Suze flung her arm around Dewey as they rounded the corner with the wagon, I knew the mean girls would be right there, and bingo, there they were. Suze's sudden blooming into an artist also did not seem convincing to me. And sometimes I found myself wishing that the author had a lighter touch and just a glimmer of a sense of humor. For these reasons, and because the ending of this book was so utterly perfect in its chilling way, I'm not sure I'll be seeking out the sequel.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sheila .
1,911 reviews
September 3, 2013
I think we have a winner for my rarely given, 5-stars of love rating!

What a great book! What a great book for girls! I read this aloud to my daughter, and we both greatly enjoyed the story of Dewey, a science loving girl, who goes to live with her father, who is working on a government project for the war in Los Alamos, New Mexico, a place that doesn't officially exist.

The mystery and the secrecy that was Los Alamos, The Manhattan Project, "the gadget", and the Trinity test is brought to life through the eyes of a young girl, who doesn't fully understand everything that is happening with the mathematicians and scientists working on the hill, but knows that they are trying to do something that will stop the war.

This book continues through the test of "the gadget", the Trinity nuclear bomb, that was tested at White Sands in July 1945, causing the titled Green Glass Sea which Dewey is allowed to visit, and ends simply with a radio announcement of "...onto the Japanese city of Hiroshima this morning....", our only hint that the atomic bomb has now been dropped on that city in August 1945.

There is a second book in this series, White Sands, Red Menace, which continues this story, and we will be reading that one immediately.
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,328 reviews355 followers
May 24, 2019
3.5 stars

1944. After her Nana has a stroke, Dewey finds herself traveling across the country to New Mexico to meet her father at his mysterious research facility. There, she meets mean Suze, who bullies her in order to look cool to the other girls. Things heat up when Dewey's father has to go to Washington, DC, for a while and Dewey is forced to stay with Suze. Can these two enemies set aside their differences?

I wanted to like this book a whole lot more than I did. I think it's because I'd already read the incredible Out of Left Field and had been blown away by that book's plot, characters and themes of sexism and erasure of history "for the patriarchy."

This book is much more character driven, following Dewey and Suze throughout their year and some on The Hill, aka Los Alamos, as their parents work on "the gadget," a mysterious device that will end the war...if it works.

Historically detailed and exhaustively researched, there's a lot of talk about friendships, popularity, enemies to friendship/finding common ground, dealing with grief, unconventional families, girls (and women) in science, and what it means to be smart when you're a woman/girl in the 1940s. There's also a lot of drinking of Cokes, smoking of cigarettes (if you're Suze's mom) and some very dated language for people of color.

I wish that I had liked this a lot more, but I had been hoping for something more...actiony? More girls in science? More doing something with the radio besides constant tinkering? I am glad I read it, however, because it really did suck me into what it was like to be one of the children living on the Hill while the atomic bomb was being developed. I just wished it had a little more plot and a little less slice of life.

A fascinating glimpse in time to be sure, with little nostalgia and a solid helping of reality, but ultimately it wasn't the amazing read I had been anticipating.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,970 followers
March 19, 2013
In 1943, 11-year-old Dewey is on her way to spend some time with her mathematician father after her grandmother suffers a stroke and can no longer take care of her. Her father has been absent since the beginning of the War and now lives at Los Alamos, working on a secret project which is only referred to as “the gadget” throughout the book. The Gadget is of course, the atomic bomb and Los Alamos is the secret location of the Manhattan Project.

There, Dewey is left mostly to her own devices – quite literally too, since Dewey has a love for all things mechanical and loves inventing new things. But life is not particularly easy because most of the other kids (especially the girls) want nothing to do with Dewey. At the same time, her classmate Suze is equally shunned for her (large-ish) size – and the two girls end up becoming friends.

I recently read and had my mind blown away by a short story written by Ellen Klages in the Under My Hat anthology which promptly made me want to read another story from her. I did a bit of research and came across The Green Glass Sea, an award-winning historical novel featuring Girls! Science! The Atomic Bomb! and how could I NOT want to read this? Really.

There is a lot to admire here and a lot that is downright cool about it. I mean, Dewey is friends with Richard freaking Feynman and calls J. Robert Oppenheimer, Oppie. And it’s like, HERE girls, you can have the Physics Dream Team playing just outside your door.

Similarly, it is great to see the two girls finding out their interests in life are ok, even if they are girls – one is an artist, the other an inventor, both extremely creative. The book also shows how incredibly important role models are to children and in that sense, the relationship between Suze’s mother – a chemist working on the project – and Dewey is great because of their shared interest in scientific pursuits. Another thing that the book does really well is to show that historical moment when most people believed that the bomb was absolutely necessary to finish the war with Japan (Historians think it wasn’t) as well as the scientists’ working on the project increasing hesitation about using the bomb.

That said, I had two major problems with the novel. Problem numero uno: really, how freaking tragic can you get? Dewey has had a terrible time – first of all, her mother was a drunk who dropped her downstairs when she was a baby resulting on one slightly shorter, weaker leg. Her father is away all the time, her grandmother has a stroke and THEN as soon as life is starting to look up, her father dies in a car crash leaving Dewey orphaned and the latter chapters of the book are tense with a grieving Dewey believing she was all alone in the world. Ok fine, yes: tragedy happens and it’s cool that this book doesn’t shy away from it. But this to me just feels like a very old-fashioned MG in which main characters must suffer unspeakable contrived tragedies in order to grow and Learn About Life. Or something. Not to mention that the characters are stuck in this personal tragedy and this effectively overshadows the tragedy of the atomic bombings. In fairness though, the focus here is the personal and from the perspective of children.

Problem numero dos: As much as I loved her, it is clear that Dewey( and to some extent Suze too ) is an excepto- girl (TM Jodie): she is an exceptional girl who excel at something (science) that is not traditionally feminine (especially at the time) and who is elevated above all the other girls in the novel who all end up being villains described as girly-girls.

Something that made me really uneasy about the novel is how any signs of traditional femininity are portrayed negatively. All three “heroines” of the novel and the ones we are supposed to relate to and root for because they are better – Dewey, Suze and Suze’s mother – and are described as either ugly or big and there is one particular point made about how Suze’s mother doesn’t wear make-up or jewellery. Dewey and Suze even make a point of saying that no girls are allowed in their club. The problem isn’t as much with the perception the girls have of themselves or even with the fact they are not what is perceived as traditionally feminine but with the fact that girls are every other female character in the novel – often beautiful, with their “girl-voices”, interested in boys and who do not share the same (portrayed as better) interests as our main characters – and who are all villains and bullies. I love reading stories about girls who doesn’t conform to a certain idea of femininity but not to the expense of all others.

Unfortunately then, I was a bit disappointed with The Green Glass Sea.
683 reviews9 followers
December 12, 2015
Ellen Klages' YA historical novel Green Glass Sea is a wonderful read. Set during World War II, it is the story of ten-year-old Dewey Kerrigan, whose mathematician father has been recruited to work on the top-secret program to develop a nuclear bomb.

Dewey's mother left the family when Dewy was a baby, and she has grown up being shuffled between her father and her maternal grandmother - but now that her father is settled for the time bring in Los Alamos and her grandmother has been incapacitated with a stroke, Dewey rejoins her father and tries to make a life with him in the closed community of scientists, engineers, technicians, military personnel and their families that make up the core of the Manhattan Project.

It's not easy for Dewey to fit in. She's short, needs glasses, and wears a shoe with a lift because one leg is shorter than the other due to a childhood injury. And she isn't all that interested in typical "girl" things - she's a born scientist and engineer, and spends her free time tinkering with gears, radio parts, and other useful things she finds at the Los Alamos dump.

Still, Dewey is happy to be with her father - until he's called away on business and she has to stay with the Gordons and their daughter Suze. Suze - tall and solidly built, with a creative mind and an artist's independent spirit - doesn't fit in either, but she wants to. She misses her home in Berkeley, and she resents the time her parents spend working on the project, something that affects her more than most other kids because both her parents are scientists. And she resents having to live with "screwy Dewey."

In Green Glass Sea, Klages portrays the reality of life at the heart of the war effort, where secrecy is paramount and building "the gadget" that it is hoped will win the war is on everyone's mind.

By telling the story through the uncritical eyes of a child, Klages is also able to explore issues of class, gender and race in the late 1940s, amidst the fervour of war. From the social distinctions on base reflected in who is housed where, to war propaganda that is focused on Hitler when referring to the European theatre, but on "Japs" as a group when dealing with the Asian theatre, to the peer pressure on Suze and Dewey to be "normal girls," Green Glass Sea is an unflinching look at wartime society in the U.S.

But it is in the characters Dewey and Suze that the book gives the young audience it is intended for its greatest gift. As they come to know and feel comfortable in the things that distinguish them from the other girls, and develop a friendship that empowers them both, they become role models for every girl who is drawn to a different set of interests and goals from those society sets out for her.

Profile Image for Connie Johnson.
287 reviews2 followers
April 12, 2020
This story has it all and l zipped through it. Dewey is such a strong, quiet character, and I enjoyed getting to know her.
Profile Image for Tracy.
862 reviews6 followers
January 28, 2022
I really enjoyed this heart-warming story of two 11 year old girls becoming friends in 1945, in an isolated military camp, while their scientist parents work at Los Alamos inventing the nuclear bomb. I plan to read the next two books in the series. I can see why this book won several awards.
Profile Image for Lisa Mandina.
1,817 reviews407 followers
July 25, 2020
Yet another recorded in my reading journal but never added to Goodreads. 3 stars since I can't remember.
100 reviews3 followers
February 28, 2010
I was uncomfortable reading this book because of the title and the subject matter. I've been to Los Alamos and know about the green glass of the title. Geiger counters were not very accurate back then, and scientists didn't know which levels of radiation would have lasting effects. I cringed at the end of the book, knowing not only what the radio report on Hiroshima would mean for the world, but what the shoe box full of green glass would mean for Dewey and the Gordons. Whew! Hard one to finish for me.
Dewey is an eleven year old loner. Her father, a scientist, is her only parent and he is gone much of the time, leaving her with neighbors and friends to fend for herself. Dewey is not interested in "girly" things; she's an inventor and would rather spend her time tinkering with radios and gears, reading, or making things. When she has to move in with the Gordon's because her father is in Washington, D.C. on secret business, she has to share a small room with Suze Gordon, a classmate at school. Suze wants so much to fit in with the girly-girls at their school that she makes fun of "Screwy Dewey" every chance she gets; but she's also considered an outsider because she's not small and dainty and she likes to make art out of things she finds. The girls are not friends; in fact, Suze hates being forced to share her room and Dewey regards Suze as one of the many unpleasant people her father has forced her to learn to live with. But of course, they find commonalities and eventually forge a fragile friendship which will face several difficult tests.
The slow growth of the girls' friendship is set against a backdrop of the work their parents do on the Manhattan Project. Everything is accepted as "acceptable" since sacrifices are made for the "war" effort, even though the war, from where they sit sipping cokes and eating steak, is far from real. In many ways, Dewey suffers the consequences of the war more than any of the other characters: she is orphaned because of it, she's become an immigrant of sorts, and her skills as a mathematician and inventor will only be valued in a community of scientists- once the war is over, she will be an outsider again.
Klages peppers her story with details about the dress of the times, the fascination with comic books, cokes, and tree houses, and the stark setting of Los Alamos in New Mexico of the 1940's. It isn't overtly obvious that Mrs. Gordon is the one to come home and do all the cooking, or that she remains behind while her husband attends the testing. Even female scientists knew their place. What is apparent is the secrecy with which the Project was handled, and the excitement of working on something so new and so powerful that even those working on it didn't know the consequences of what they'd created. Near the end of the book, several tensions begin to appear between Mr. and Mrs. Gordon, especially as they reference the "burned spots that looked like like little animals, like a bird or a desert mouse stenciled black against the hard, flat ground" (312). Hiroshima is mostly alluded to, intending the reader to know the background and outcome of the reference. That puts the book into the center of a social studies curriculum, begging for informational support materials to contextualize all that has happened.
I enjoyed this book for the honesty of the characters and soft openings for questions about America's decision to use the Atomic bomb. In my mind, I think Klages didn't go quite far enough.
December 30, 2021
This was probably one on my favorite books I have read this school year! It was so interesting reading about their parents building the atomic bomb. I loved the friendship between Dewey and Suze’s friendship and how it was gradual. The way this author wrote the characters was so believable and made me feel what they were feeling. There were a couple times when I was almost crying with the characters. It was so cool to have the PX and Commissary mentioned more than once in the book, especially since I am a military child. I also enjoyed the mentions of El Paso. This was a wonderful book and I can’t wait to read more about the characters in the sequels.
Profile Image for Arminzerella.
3,701 reviews86 followers
March 13, 2009
This work of historical fiction tells the story of the Manhattan Project through the eyes of some of the children who might have experienced it by proxy as their parents (scientists affiliated with the project) worked on it in secret.

Dewey Kerrigan comes to live with her father in New Mexico when she is eleven. She’s small for her age and doesn’t fit in well with other kids. Also, one of her legs is longer than the other due to a childhood accident. She’s really smart, though, and fascinated by how things work – she’s well on her way to becoming a brilliant scientist herself. Dewey eventually becomes friends with another girl, Suze, who’s also lonely and excluded by the other kids. They end up living together while Dewey’s father is in Washington DC on important (and secret, always secret) business.

The book is sprinkled with major events of the time period, and famous figures who worked on the Manhattan Project – Dewey meets some of them and gets help with her inventions. I was surprised to learn how many “big names” were contemporaries and that they had collaborated together on this (which, I guess, only shows how much I don’t know). It doesn’t explain, however, what the devastating effects of the bomb are. While the Project is disruptive for the kids in the story, it’s more because it takes their parents away from them, and not because they really know much about it. The story is more about the kids, and the actual Project is in the background.

This was an ok read, but not amazing.
Profile Image for Maren.
584 reviews1 follower
August 26, 2019
There were things I liked about this book. The day-in-the-life narrative of children in Los Alamos was interesting historically. The characters, while pretty one dimensional, were endearing. I almost could have given it one more star, but because it was kind of simplistic (both the cliched characters and plot) it made me wonder how well researched this was, or if this was just what the author imagined it would be. Also, I really disliked the ending, the spoiler is really mild (I'm sure you know what was happening in Los Alamos) but I'll hide it anyway
Profile Image for Jess.
2,421 reviews25 followers
July 11, 2008
Dewey (11) lives in a town which can't be named. Her father, a scientist, works on a "gadget" (along with hundreds of others) that can't be discussed. Welcome to daily life in the Manhattan project.

Characters the reader can relate to with understandable and clear prose. Readers get the feel of what it's like for children living in Los Alamos while their parents build the Atom bomb.

Klages has a good grasp on what it's like to be a kid when it comes to: not being privy to information, the relationships between Dewey and Suze, the use of patriotism as an argument for most things, etc. Well written but more could have been included at the close. Not sure if YA readers will comprehend the Trinity site.

One major complain: Where's the explanation note? I cannot believe Klages ends the book without one. Her list of further reading materials doesn't take the place of something on the topic in the book. What happened to the scientists and their families? How did they react to what they created (hinted at in the story) What about radiation poisoning? Etc. Etc.

There are dozens of additional questions readers could ask. Several have come to my mind since I finished the book. I don't expect her to answer all of them fully but I do expect her to say something. What the scientists created changed the world. Surely this deserves more than a footnote's worth of explanation.

Profile Image for Amanda .
738 reviews36 followers
August 7, 2017
An educational read for me in the form of a simple adolescent story. I've read on multiple occasions about how Hitler rounded up brilliant and elite German minds to work under his reign, but was ignorant to the American civilian scientists who were brought together to work in this secret community on The Manhattan Project. I had never before read about the making of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos, or Trinity and the Green Glass Sea. This little book strongly supports the author's statement that historical fiction is a time machine.
I didn't love the actual story.. it's written toward a very young audience (9 and up), so not overly riveting. At the same time, there is regular detailed description of tobacco and alcohol use (perhaps common of the time, but age appropriate?) and Dewey's hardships and loss are pretty heavy for the targeted young age group. Her loss seemed unnecessarily too much.
On the flip side, there were good lessons. This is an empowering book for girls. It celebrates brilliant, creative minds and those who don't always fit in. This, and the history were what I really liked about it.
Profile Image for Steve.
903 reviews132 followers
July 26, 2012
Standing in the gift store of the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History - a fun and geeky store in a terrific small museum (in Albuquerque) - I asked an employee (who obviously loved working in the store) for a book recommendation. This is what I bought as a result (intending it as a two-fer, hoping that one or both of my sons might allso read it), and it was a pleasant surprise. On one level, this is a comfortable, easily accessible fictional historical snapshot - through the eyes of two young pre-teen girls - of a remarkable place (Los Alamos) and time (it's not a huge secret the book ends as the Americans drop the bomb on Hiroshima). The research - particularly of the minutiae - food, housing, train travel, even comic books - is a treat. Ultimately, the book does a wonderful job opening a window into a beehive of history-altering behavior involving the intense efforts of a huge group of extraordinary people. Nicely done....
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