When a family member smuggles them a newspaper clipping of a hot air balloon, the Wetzel family, who live in East Berlin in 1979, are inspired to escape to West Berlin by hot air balloon. They sneak extra nylon and fuel whenever possible to avoid alerting the Stasi. Young Peter knows of his parents’ daring plan but is sworn to secrecy until one night, he is awoken in the middle of the night and the family drives to a secluded field to make their dangerous attempt. As Stasi police cars pull into the meadow, Peter is instructed by his dad to cut the balloon free. The family flies for only 30 minutes before they run out of fuel and their balloon crashes down. Unsure whether they’ve succeeded in crossing the Berlin Wall, they hide in the forest until a passing car confirms they’ve escaped to West Berlin. Fulton’s masterful historical writing—based on interviews with the Wetzel family—is engaging and fitting of the moving and inspiring true story. Her narrative succinctly provides an educational historical context that accentuates the drama of the Wetzel family’s escape. Kuhlmann’s illustrations are praiseworthy, with a realism and heaviness that match the gravity of the situation and all that is at risk for the Wetzel family. Some fascinating additional details of the story are included in notes at the end.
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Nonfiction picture book author Kristen Fulton calls central Florida home. But, she spends the majority of the year traveling across America. She visits every museum and history center that she can find along her journey. Wafting through dusty artifacts, Kristen is always on the lookout for her next story. Want to learn more about Kristen or when she will be in your area for author events? Visit KristenFulton.com.
Torben Kuhlmann was born in Germany in 1982. Highly creative as a young child, Torben was recognized as early as kindergarten for being a gifted draftsman. He was captivated by small airplanes, strange machines, and steaming trains; these elements made their way into his drawings. He studied illustration and design at the Hamburg University for Applied Sciences. His preferred media are pen and watercolor. He also works with acrylics, oil paints, and digital programs. He works as a freelance illustrator in Hamburg. His books Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse, Moletown, and Armstrong—The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moonquickly became best sellers and owe their inventiveness to Torben’s great enthusiasm for unusual mechanical inventions.Edison —The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure is his fourth picture book for NorthSouth Books.
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