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Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany

Written by Kristen Fulton & illustrated by Torben Kuhlmann
Published by Chronicle Books LLC
5.5 / 7.0
- Bookroo Rating
Goodreads Rating - 4.4 / 5.0
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used $3.86
Mar 3, 2020
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What Does Bookroo Think of This Book

“A moving true story of a family’s brave escape from East Berlin by hot air balloon.”

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.

What's This Book About

Publisher Summary

An Inspiring True Story about One Family’s Escape from Behind the Berlin Wall!

Peter was born on the east side of Germany, the side that wasn’t free. He watches news programs rather than cartoons, and wears scratchy uniforms instead of blue jeans. His family endures long lines and early curfews. But Peter knows it won’t always be this way. Peter and his family have a secret. Late at night in their attic, they are piecing together a hot air balloon—and a plan. Can Peter and his family fly their way to freedom? This is the true story of one child, Peter Wetzel, and his family, as they risk their lives for the hope of freedom in a daring escape from East Germany via a handmade hot air balloon in 1979.

• A perfect picture book for educators teaching about the Cold War, the Iron Curtain, and East Germany
Flight for Freedom is a showcase for lessons of bravery, heroism, family, and perseverance, as well as stunning history.
• Includes detailed maps of the Wetzel family’s escape route and diagrams of their hot air balloon

For fans of historical nonfiction picture books like Let the Children March, The Wall, Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon.

• True life escape stories
• For picture book readers age 5–9
• For teachers, librarians, and historians

Kristen Fulton is a children’s book author. She can always be found with a notebook in hand as she ventures through historical sites and museums. Most of the time she lives in Florida—but she can also be found traveling the country by RV.

Torben Kuhlmann is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator. Starting in kindergarten he became known as “the draftsman.” Flying machines and rich historical detail often adorn his work. He lives in Hamburg, Germany.

What Kind of Book is Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany

Where Does This Book Stand Out


The “History” badge is awarded to recognize books that exceptionally share history.

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Book-loving mommy-to-be! Recently enjoyed The Hobbit, Becoming, and The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mabel.
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Favorite pastime? Reading with my kids. Just finished Nana Cracks the Case!
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The Book Snob Mom
Mom of boys. Lover of Harry Potter, Jane Austen and believes one can never own too many children's books!
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Mom of three little boys who love books about dragons, whangdoodles and magic.
5.5 / 7.0

Book Lists That Include Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany

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Who Wrote Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany

Kristen Fulton

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

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Who Illustrated Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany

Torben Kuhlmann

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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What Has Torben Kuhlmann Said About This Book

Nothing yet! 🤷 You should let Torben know that you want more details about Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany!

What Has Kristen Fulton Said About This Book

Nothing yet! 🤷 You should let Kristen know that you want more details about Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany! Try tweeting Kristen on twitter (@KristenFulton).

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Book Details

Publication Date:
March 3, 2020
Lexile® Level:

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