Escape to West Berlin

Maurine F. Dahlberg

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

The advent of the Wall

Heidi's thirteenth birthday is coming up, but she's disappointed -- her mother is pregnant and refuses to make the annual summer visit to Heidi's grandmother. What's more, it's 1961 and the government is cracking down on border crossers, people who work in the West but live in the East. Heidi's father is a border crosser, and her best friend, Petra, has been forbidden to see Heidi until her father finds a new job in East Berlin. Heidi feels betrayed. Then, as political tension mounts, her parents tell her they are secretly moving West, and Heidi must travel alone to get her grandmother. But how can she do it without Petra's help?

The author captures all the terror of the time in her gripping story of an indomitable heroine who steals across the Berlin border by facing her greatest fear.


Read an Excerpt

Escape to West Berlin
1"I KNOW THE TWO OF YOU CAN'T GO, but I can go by myself," I whispered.I was standing at our living room window, looking out at the dull, rainy East Berlin evening and rehearsing the words I'd say to my parents. "You have no idea how much I look forward to going every year!"I frowned. Those words didn't adequately describe the way I felt about our visits to my step-grandfather's farm. I loved every minute of every day there: sitting up in bed and watching the sun rise; having eggs, milk, fresh bread, and real butter for breakfast; helping Oma, my grandmother, work in the


Praise for Escape to West Berlin

"Heidi's first-person narration keeps readers in a front-row seat to extremely exciting events, and her voice is very much that of an ordinary and likable young teen rising to the challenge of extraordinary demands." -- The Horn Book Magazine

"Dahlberg presents a realistic portrayal of the formal separation of East and West Germany and the building of the Berlin Wall. The climax is well timed and...holds readers' attention. Youngsters will also relate to Heidi's emotional struggle with maturity."
-- School Library Journal

"Heidi's viewpoint effectively conveys the reality of life in an increasingly authoritarian East Berlin without foregoing common teen concerns of friends and fashion. The novel treats a dramatic time in history, and it will enlighten contemporary youngsters about divisions of the past that may have influenced their own family's experiences."
-- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"This memorable book is perhaps the first historical fiction story for youth set during this era. The authentic re-creation of the setting along with credible, realistic characters and a suspenseful and fast-paced plot will satisfy even the most reluctant readers." -- VOYA

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Maurine F. Dahlberg

  • Maurine F. Dahlberg is the author of Play to the Angel and The Spirit and Gilly Bucket. She lives in Oak Hill, Virginia.
  • Maurine F. Dahlberg Copyright Leesa Woodard



Teacher's Guide


Available Formats and Book Details

Escape to West Berlin

Maurine F. Dahlberg

Missouri Mark Twain Award Master List, Rhode Island Children's Book Award Master List, West Virginia Children's Book Award Master List, Indiana Young Hoosier Award Master List, Tennessee Intermediate Volunteer State Book Award Master Lis, South Carolina Children's Book Award Master List, NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
  • e-Book