“It was Sunday, August 13, 1961, a day I would remember for the rest of my life. When a prison wall had been built around us as we slept.”
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen is a captivating and tense novel that tells the story of a family divided by the Berlin Wall. The book follows 12-year-old Gerta as she navigates life on the east side of the wall, desperately trying to reunite with her family on the other side.
In this historical fiction novel, readers get a glimpse of the many ways East Berliners attempted to make their escape to the West. Very few people were successful. It ended in death for those who were caught.
In A Night Divided, a neighbor, Herr Krause, warned Gerta’s father to leave before it was too late. He could see what was happening. “Your family must get over to the west while you still can,” he said. The father wanted to secure a job and a place to live first, so he and his middle son left in the night, sure they would return in a few days to get the rest of the family. The construction of the Berlin Wall made their return impossible, leaving Gerta, her older brother, and their mother in the east.
One day, Gerta sees her father on a viewing platform. He’s pantomiming a dance they used to do together. She concludes that he wants her and her brother to dig a tunnel beneath the wall to West Berlin. She knew that the consequences would be deadly if they were caught. Suspecting friends and neighbors would report them to the German soldiers. No one could be trusted.
A Night Divided teaches us about the power of hope, perseverance, and the importance of family as Gerta and her brother secretly dig a tunnel in hopes of reuniting their family.
Great for middle-grade book club
This book is a great book to use with a book club or for a class read-aloud. I used it with a 6th-grade book club and they loved it The author gets into the action right at the beginning, which grabs their attention right away. Although many middle-grade students aren’t into historical fiction, this one reads more like a thriller.
What was the berlin wall?
To give students some facts about the Berlin Wall before reading, I like to show this brief video from The History Channel. Seeing real footage of the wall, the death strip, and people trying to escape helps readers develop a sense of empathy. Click the image below to watch.
More about the book
Point of View
The story is told from Gerta’s point of view. She tells of her plans, her fears, and her thoughts about other characters.
Setting – Time/Place
The story takes place in Berlin, Germany during the Cold War.
- the struggle for freedom
- the power of hope
- the importance of family
- the strength of the human spirit
- the impact of political division
At the young age of twelve, Gerta had to take many risks in order to save her family.
Accelerated Reader: level 5.4
Interest level: middle grades
A night divided comprehension questions
To guide students through the reading of this book and ensure their comprehension, I created question/discussion cards for each chapter. There are 2 to 5 questions per chapter. Many of the questions require students to dig deeper into the text. Click the image to grab the questions.
The questions are also in printable and digital formats if you’d like your students to write their answers.
Save this image to your favorite classroom Pinterest board.