The granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor finds herself transported back in time to East Berlin circa 1988 in this time-travel mystery debut.
Ellie Baum is on a school trip to Berlin in the present day when she reaches out for a passing balloon and finds herself inexplicably transported to the same place in a different time, 18 months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Disoriented, she has no choice but to trust the first people she encounters—two teenage outcasts, Kai and Mitzi—who are agents of an underground group that wields magic and science to rescue people from East Berlin using bespelled red balloons. Ellie’s presence confounds even the balloon makers, especially since no one knows how to send her back to her own time. As Kai and Ellie investigate this question, growing closer in the process, the dead bodies of other, failed time travelers start piling up and complicating the mystery. Chapters of Ellie’s story in 1988 East Berlin are interspersed throughout with the story of her grandfather’s miraculous escape from Chelmno, a concentration camp in Poland, in 1942, a narrative that eventually converges with Ellie’s own. Kai is Romani, Ellie is Jewish, and Mitzi is gay, identities that lend deeper significance to this gripping story of disparate facets of European history.
An absorbing blend of historical fiction, mystery, and magical realism. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 14-18)