Book Review: THE GREEN GLASS SEA – written by Ellen Klages


Klages, Ellen. 2006. THE GREEN GLASS SEA. New York, NY: Viking Juvenile. ISBN 978-0670061341.


THE GREEN GLASS SEA is a historical fiction novel and coming-of-age story set during World War II in Los Alamos, New Mexico. In 1943, Dewey (10) and Suze (11) were both transplanted to a top-secret and remote military base in Los Alamos.  Ellen Klages tells the story of the struggles that Dewey, Suze, and their scientist families endured during the years leading up to the development of the atomic bomb.


The Good:

Good historical fiction “tells fictional stories while weaving in historical faces, people, and places” (Vardell 2008, 178). Dewey and Suze’s friendship and dialog is “compelling” and appealing to girls aged 10-15 (Engelfried n.d.).  The relationship between the main characters in this tale is a “celebration of intelligence and nonconformity” that children will sure to love (The Historical Novel Society n.d.).


The Bad:

The book touches on many accurate historical details such as “cigarette brands and radio models, as well as the names of the famous scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project” (Kirkus Reviews 2010).  Unfortunately, these well researched and abundant historical antidotes distract from the fictional tale and it “fails to come to life, making [the story] unconvincing and uninteresting” (Kirkus Reviews 2010).


Main Characters:

  • Dewey – Friend of Suze. 10 year old girl sent to live in Los Alamos with his scientist father after her grandmother has a stroke.
  • Suze – Friend of Dewey. 11 year old girl who has a hard time adjusting to life in Los Alamos.


Enrichment Activities:

This book could be a jumping off point to initiate a discussion on the history of World War II and the atomic bomb.  The award winning non-fiction book BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD AND STEAL THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON would be a wonderful book to pair with the THE GREEN GLASS SEA.  Scholastic also has an excellent teacher extension activity on their website:


Awards: (from author’s website:

  • Winner, 2007 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction
  • Winner, 2007 Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature
  • Winner, 2007 New Mexico State Book Award (YA)
  • Finalist, 2007 Quill Awards (Young Adult)
  • Finalist, Northern California Book Awards, 2007 (Children’s)
  • Finalist, Locus Awards, 2007 (Best First Novel)
  • Book Sense #1 Children’s Pick – Winter 2006/2007
  • One Book, One Nebraska for Kids – 2009
  • 2009 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award Master List, (Illinois)
  • 2008 NeNe Award List (Hawaii)
  • 2008 Bluegrass Award Master List (Kentucky)
  • 2007-08 Maine Student Book Award List
  • 2007-08 Isinglass Teen Read List (New Hampshire)
  • 2009 Rhode Island Teen Book Award List
  • 2008-09 South Carolina Junior Book Award List


Ellen Klages Reads from the Final Pages of THE GREEN GLASS SEA:


What to Read to Next:

Sheinkin, Steve. 2012. BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD AND STEAL THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON. New York, NY: Flash Point. ISBN 978-1596434875


Klages, Ellen. 2010. WHITE SANDS, RED MENACE. New York, NY: Puffin. ISBN 978-0142415184



Engelfried, Steven. n.d. “School Library Journal: Editorial Reviews.” Amazon. Accessed April 6, 2014.

Kirkus Reviews. 2010. “Kirkus Reviews.” THE GREEN GLASS SEA. May 10. Accessed April 6, 2014.

The Historical Novel Society. n.d. “THE GREEN SEA OF GLASS.” Accessed April 9, 2014.

Vardell, Sylvia M. 2008. Children’s Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.


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