The Wall Between Us


In The Wall Between Us, Anja and Monika are two twelve-year-old girls living in 1960s Germany. They are cousins, as well as best friends.

Despite living on the same street, their homes are on opposite sides of the border that separates East Berlin from West Berlin. Ever since Germany was split in two in 1949, the border has just been a line on a map. But one night in 1961, that all changes.  That night, Anja is awoken by loud noises and discovers that a barbed wire barricade is being built right down the middle of her street, separating her from half her family.  Soon a wall is constructed…the Berlin Wall.

Anja devises an ingenious way for the two to stay in touch, thanks to the intrepid Otto.  However, Anja and Monika’s activities are drawing suspicion from the Stasi – the much-feared East German state secret police.  Soon they are under close surveillance. Disaster strikes one night and both girls are thrown into great danger.  There is a strong suggestion of betrayal in the air and the girls feel they are unable to trust anyone.

Dan Smith’s story is packed with intrigue and suspicion and the use of diary entries and messages between the girls feels authentic, giving the children’s voices great resonance.

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The Wall Between Us

Dan Smith

(Chicken House)

The Wall Between Us is told through newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and secret messages.  The story takes us into the heart of the Cold War with the building of the Berlin Wall, which tore families and communities apart.
Anja and Monika are 12-year-old cousins and the best of friends. They live on either side of a street forming part of the border between east and West Berlin.  However, in August 1961, soldiers first put up barbed wire and then build a wall down the middle of the street.  Anja and Monika become separated.  Furthermore, there is suspicion and surveillance everywhere as neighbours become spies and the Stasi secret police are omnipresent. The girls soon realise that their lives will never be the same again.
The complexity of Anja and Monika’s relationship is beautifully written.  They simply just want to be together and they are determined to find new ways to communicate. Anja finds that her beloved cat, Otto, is somehow able to get through the wall and into Monika’s house. She devises an ingenious way to get messages to Monika using Otto’s cunning.
However, neither girl has any real idea of the scale of surveillance they are under and their every move is being watched.  When disaster strikes, Anja is forced into hiding while she cannot understand why Monika has all but stopped communicating with her.  Anja begins to suspect everyone around her – surely there isn’t a traitor in the family? As a crisis looms, the two girls must risk everything to save their families and their freedom.



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