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The Green Glass Sea Hardcover – 19 Oct 2006
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About the Author
It teaches you to ask questions and think logically, which are useful skills for just about any job. she says. But when I looked in the Want Ads under P, no philosophers. Ive been a pinball mechanic, a photographer, and done paste-up for a printer.
Ive lived in San Francisco most of my adult life. The city wears its past in layers, glimpses of other eras visible on every street. I love to look through old newspapers and photos, trying to piece together its stories.
I was at the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum, working as proofreader, when they were looking for a science writer to do a childrens science activity book. No science background, but I convinced my boss that in order to translate from a PhD physicist, I had to ask lots of questions, just like a curious kid. I got the job.
My desk was covered with baking soda, Elmers glue, balloons, soap bubbles, and dozens of other common objects that became experiments, and the office echoed with the Science-at-Home team saying, Wow! Look at this!
My co-writer, Pat Murphy, a science-fiction author, encouraged me to write stories of my own. Ive now sold more than a dozen. Basement Magic, a fairy tale set at the beginning of the Space Age, won the Nebula Award in 2005.
The Green Glass Sea is not science fiction, but it is fiction about science. And history and curiosity.
Ellen Klages lives in San Francisco. The Green Glass Sea is her first novel.
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The story (and I will not dwell on the plot) is historically based fiction and at the same time is a coming of age tale. It takes place in 1943 at Los Alamos, New Mexico during the time the atomic bomb was being developed. It is the story of two girls, both around 10 or eleven and the story is told through there eyes. Their parents are scientists working on "the gadget." It is about their daily lives living in a small part of the world with a small group of adults who where about to change the world and our entire concept of the world. The girls were clueless as to what was going on...the adults were not, although it makes it plane that even these adults did not fully realize what was about to be released upon mankind.
On the other hand, the daily struggle these two young girls went through was no different than most children of both then an now. There were daily challenges to be met, both physical and social and the author captures the maturation process of these two young women perfectly.
Now if someone wants to read a book telling of the nuts and bolts of the Manhattan Project, they should look elsewhere. The reader is aware of what is going on behind the scenes as these two girls grow, but the project itself is in the background. The closest we get is the noted stress the adults in the girl's are continually under. This is a story of the families involved in this project - not the project itself...thank goodness. I started my life during these times and lived in that area of the country for several years so could relate to just about everything that took place in this work.
The author has captured the world; America, perfectly. There are small things the reader can note such as all the adults smoked, all had there after work drinks, and there were shortages of different things. Also the gloom of war - WWII was continually hanging in the air - it was a nation at total war and times were different in many ways. On the other hand, some things never change. The cruelty that girls and boys this age can direct toward any who are different (and the two girls featured in this story were indeed just a bit different than their peers) has not changed a lot over the years and quite likely never will.
This is also a story of friendship and of loss and how it is dealt with. I will tell you that there is grave doubt in the ending; this is not a happy story, nor is it particularly sad...it just is. If you ever get the chance, go visit the Trinity Site and ask yourself how you feel.
This was a fascinating read and once started I fear I was unable to put it down until its conclusion. I highly recommend this one.
This was a library find.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The scientists lived on that military base with their families. This story is told thru two girls who's parents were scientists. The parents had to work a lot. They were very excited to be able to do their work and to accomplish their task, but they couldn't discuss anything with their families. The two girls started out not liking each other but as they got to know each other they changed. Their relationship developed into a close sisterly relationship as they grew to appreciate each other's personalities, and learn to trust the support the other gave.
When the "gadget" is finally ready to test, the families sit out on the mesa and watch the bomb explode 300 miles away in White Sands. They are amazed at the power of it and are excited at their accomplishment. At the end as the families merge together they take a vacation and go to the bomb site. They gather the green glass that is the result of the bomb melting the sand, but check each piece with a geiger counter before they put them in the car. I'm shocked they let the kids pick up and hold radioactive glass. As they are walking around the site they see burned outlines of animals and recognize rabbits and birds. Then the parents begin to wonder what they have created.
My son is 8 and he really enjoyed this story. It is well written with many layers to comprehend about personal relationships between children. It gave us opportunities to discuss bullies, compassion, right and wrong behaviors. It also opened opportunities to discuss the ethics of war and atomic/nuclear bombs. Micro and Macro level discussions. I wondered at first if it was a book for kids since the setting seemed to indicate a more mature story. However it is a good story for kids and adults too.
Ellen Klages takes the reader back to a time before all that. Back to when the scientists were still saying, "Can we do it?" "The science looks good." and "We should be able to!" Woven around the story of two girls, Dewey and Suze, whose personalities and talents make them misfits at school and in their neighborhood until they find they are a perfect fit for each other is a wonderful picture of determination and a great sense of anticipation as their scientist parents work to turn "Can we do it?" into "Yes! We did it!" It had never occurred to me just how much of a sense of accomplishment the scientists must have felt when the test worked, but it is well-depicted here. The somewhat surprising final scene of the novel hints at what we as a nation would be saying later, "My God, what have we done?"
I highly recommend this book for girls who don't quite fit in and girls who are interested in science. As an educator, I will be using it as part of a middle school American History/Literature course.