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Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The Green Glass Sea
y Ellen Klages

Publishing Information: Viking: New York, 2006
ISBN: 9780670061341 / 9781428146396 (Audio)
: 272 p.
Ages: 9 & Up

Dewey moves to Los Alamos to live with her scientist father while he works on the Manhattan Project.  

Book Talk:
What would it be like to live in a place where the country’s greatest minds came together to create the world’s most dangerous weapon?

Dewey’s father is working on the Gadget at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Dewey loves her life on the base, except for the teasing she gets for being tomboyish and different. Girly-girl Suze is lonely too, in a different way. Can the two girls overcome their differences? Will the weapon everyone on the Hill is working on end the war could it end the world?

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Atomic Bomb
Fathers and daughters
Los Alamos
Manhattan Project
World War 1939-1945 US Fiction

Awards & Reviews:
Bluegrass Award Nominee, 2008
Book Sense #1 Children's Pick, Winter 2006-2007
Horn Book Fanfare selection, 2006
Isinglass Award Nominee, 2008
Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children's Literature, 2007
Locus Awards (Finalist), 2007
Maine Student Book Award List, 2007-2008
Nene Award Nominee, 2008
New Mexico State Book Award (Young Adult), 2007
Northern California Book Awards (Finalist), 2007
Quill Awards (Finalist), 2007
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award Master List, 2009
Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, 2007

South Carolina Junior Book Award List. 2008-2009

Booklist, November 15, 2006, p. 61
Horn Book, November 1, 2006 (Starred Review)
Kirkus Reviews
, September 15, 2006
Publishers Weekly, October 23, 2006 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal
, November 1, 2006, p. 138
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 2007

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Dewey and Suze are opposites in many ways, and in the era the book was set, Susan seemed to fit in and Dewey was unusual. If the two girls were living now, who do you think would fit in better?
  2. In a memorable scene, Dewey and her father climb into a cliff dwelling of the ancient Pueblo  people at Bandelier National Monument. While looking at petroglyphs carved into the tuff walls, Dewey asks her father about them.Cliff Face

“Who drew these?” she asked.
“The people who used to live here.  The Anasazi.
“People lived here?”
Papa nodded.  “A long time ago.  They vanished without a trace. Maybe they got sick.  Maybe there was a war.  Nobody really knows, but they’ve been gone for about four hundred years.”
“Is this their art?”
“Possibly. Or it could have been a message.  For all we know, it’s all that’s left of an Anasazi billboard.  Drink Swirly-Bird Cola.”
PetroglyphWhy is it significant to Dewey’s father to bring her to this special place to tell her he has to leave again? What does their conversation about the vanished civilization and the importance of message have to do with the rest of the story?

3. At one point, Mrs. Gordon, Suze’s mom, starts to worry about the possible consequences of what the scientists are working on. What do you think- is ‘pure science’ ever pure, or should scientists always consider the practical applications of their research and follow an ethical standard?

4. Suze changes a lot during the course of the story. Why do you think she became so different?

Related Websites:
Author's Website:

Los Alamos National Laboratory History:

Trinity: 16 July 1945:

Manhattan Project Sign Flickr Pool of Trinitite photographs:

Atomic Bomb:
The Gadget  by Paul Zindel, 2001
Where The Ground Meets the Sky  by Jacqueline Davies, 2002
The Bomb by Theodore Taylor, 1995

The Atom Bomb by William W. Lace, 2002
J. Robert Oppenheimer : The Brain Behind the Bomb by Glenn Scherer & Marty Fletcher, 2008
The Manhattan Project by Daniel Cohen, 1999
The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor by Ken Silverstein, 2004
They Never Knew: The Victims of Nuclear Testing by Glenn Alan Cheney, 1996

Other Books by the Author:
Portable Childhoods, 2007
White Sands, Red Menace, 2008 (sequel to The Green Glass Sea)

About the Author:
Ellen Klages was born a in Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Philosophy.

“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. I’ve been a pinball mechanic, a photographer, and done paste-up for a printer.

“I’ve 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…

The Green Glass Sea is not science fiction, but it is fiction about science. And history and curiosity.”

According to Klages: “The Green Glass Sea is my first novel. It grew out of that short story -- I knew what the relationships between characters were, the whole atomic background, and that I wanted it to start in '43 and end in '47 the weekend of the Roswell UFO sightings (which it doesn't). Though a novel has a very different structure, I just started writing pieces of it, exactly the same way I write short stories, and allowed it to grow.

“There's darkness in it, but nobody is scared in The Green Glass Sea except the reader. The Manhattan Project was in some ways like a Worldcon for the best scientists in the world: for three years, they all got to live with their own tribe. It was science camp, in a weird way. I think what I brought to it from my own life was the sense, from having worked at the Exploratorium, that art and science come from the same sense of curiosity.

“But fear is a major theme in the next book, which is a sequel whose working title is White Sands, Red Menace. The kids are in junior high, in Alamogordo, New Mexico, which is about 75 miles from the Trinity site and 60 miles east of what is now the White Sands Missile Range. It's where they trucked 300 boxcars of captured V-2 rockets that the Nazis had been using to bomb London and about a hundred captured German rocket scientists, so we could have a space program.”

“I like writing from the point of view of children, but I didn't write The Green Glass Sea as a children's book. I didn't change my vocabulary or my tone or my way of working, or anything else about it. It's certainly a book that children are enjoying and understanding, but my grown-up audience seems to be equally big. The book's about nuclear physics and the Manhattan Project. It's not World War II Lite or Atomic Bomb Lite, and part of that is because I wasn't really conscious of an audience -- of any age -- while I was writing it. I just wrote it for me, which is the way I always write.”
| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair