Ellie Baum feels the weight of history on her when she arrives on a school trip to Berlin, Germany. After all, she's the first member of her family to return since her grandfather's miraculous escape from a death camp in 1942. One moment she's contemplating the Berlin Wall Memorial amidst the crowd, and the next, she's yanked back through time, to 1988 East Berlin when the Wall is still standing.
Nobody knows how she got there, not even the members of the underground guild—the Runners and the Schopfers—who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall. Now as a stranger in an oppressive regime, Ellie must hide from the police with the help of Kai, a Runner struggling with his own uneasy relationship with the powerful Balloonmakers and his growing feelings for Ellie. Together they search for the truth behind Ellie's mysterious travel, and when they uncover a plot to alter history with dark magic, she must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the deadly plans.
Read the author’s note.
“Locke’s debut is an intricately plotted historical thriller with elements of science fiction and magical realism…a sensitive exploration of the long-lasting effects of war and subjugation, especially on marginalized people. …This sophisticated, unusual work is likely to appeal to fans of World War II and Holocaust fiction, as well as those who like their history with a tinge of romance and magic.” —School Library Journal
“An absorbing blend of historical fiction, mystery, and magical realism.”
“…readers will find an enticing, intriguing new novel. This is a clever concept—what if luftballons were magical time-traveling devices?—and Locke fills in the blanks with questions about history and life and love. This is a must for any historical fiction collection.” —Booklist
“The complex story is handled seamlessly, from Ellie’s grandfather’s time in a ghetto to Ellie’s experiences in [East] Berlin. Characters are well developed and compelling, each facing obstacles based solely on prejudices that they are able to overcome through thoughtfulness and positive action. Locke’s is an enthralling story. It exposes the cruelties inflicted on minority populations under authoritarian regimes, but counterbalances such pain with magic, friendship, and even a little romance.” —Foreword Reviews
“The first title in a promising series, this is an engaging story that would entice the most reluctant of readers to keep on reading. Highly Recommended.” —School Library Connection
“The Girl with the Red Balloon is a bold, unique fantasy that manages to be both timely and timeless. Katherine Locke has powerful things to say about how the past and present shape each other and the future, and about the magic of the human spirit.” —Gwenda Bond, author of the Lois Lane series and the Girl on a Wire series
“Locke’s deft twist on one of history’s sharper edges blends magic and sci-fi for a gripping, heart wrenching read.” —E.K. Johnston, #1 NYT Bestselling author, author of The Story of Owen, Prairie Fire, Exit Pursued by a Bear, A Thousand Nights, Spindle, Ahsoka (Star Wars), and That Inevitable Victorian Thing
“Katherine Locke expertly captures the intense paranoia and repression of Soviet-controlled East Berlin with the brutal, smothering existence of the Jewish inhabitants of the Lodz ghetto and Chelmno death camp in Nazi Germany. Through interlocking timelines, she inspires us with the hope written into every magician’s balloon, and a tender, aching romance. Ellie’s tale of a girl lost in time pulled me right along with her as she soared above her circumstances.” —Lindsay Smith, author of Sekret, Skandal, Dreamstrider, A Darkly Beating Heart, and Serial Box’s The Witch Who Came in from the Cold
“Tightly woven time travel and magical devastation buoys up a history that feels all too present. The Girl With The Red Balloon soars.” —Heidi Heilig, author of The Girl from Everywhere and The Ship Beyond Time