Grateful American Kids

“Walls” by L.M. Elliott

Age Range: 12 - 18 years

Walls by L. M. Elliott
Algonquin Young Readers (July 27, 2021)

Can two cousins on opposite sides of the Cold War and a divided city come together when so much stands between them?



Drew is an American Army brat in West Berlin, where soldiers like his dad hold an outpost of democracy against communist Russia. Drew’s cousin Matthias, an East Berliner, has grown up in the wreckage of Allied WWII bombing, on streets ruled by the KGB-trained, Stasi secret police.

From enemy sides of this Cold War standoff, the boys become wary friends, arguing over the space race, politics, even civil rights, but bonding over music. If informants catch Matthias with rock ’n roll records or books that Drew has given him, he could be sent to a work camp. If Drew gets too close to an East Berliner, others on the Army Post may question his family’s loyalty to America. As the political conflict around them grows dire, Drew and Matthias are tested in ways that will change their lives forever.

Set in the tumultuous year leading up to the surprise overnight raising of the deadly Berlin Wall in August 1961, and illustrated with dozens of real-life photographs of the time, WALLS brings to vivid life a heroic and tragic episode of the Cold War.

An excerpt from the novel:
“Working in the Marienfelde refugee camp, your mother knows things the Stasi wants like the names of East Berliners who have fled. She may even know where the Americans relocate them. But to get that information out of her would only be possible if she were scared. What better way to achieve that than by holding—“

“My sister Linda,” Drew whispered.

Matthias nodded. “But I am on”—he made quotation marks in the air—“‘high alert.’ I see things that are not there sometimes.”

Drew knew that feeling. Berlin bred it.


L. M. Elliott was an award-winning Washington-based magazine journalist, covering women’s issues, mental health, and the performing arts, before becoming a New York Times best-selling author of historical and biographical fiction. Her twelve novels explore a variety of eras (the Italian Renaissance, the American Revolutionary War, WWII, and the Cold War), and are written for a variety of ages. Many of her works have won national awards, including being named NCSS/CBC Notables (National Council of Social Studies and Children’s Book Council), Bank Street College Best Books, Jefferson Cup Honor Books, and Grateful American Book Prize winners. Elliott holds a BA from Wake Forest University and a Masters in journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. She is a lifelong Virginia resident and history-lover.