Catching Katy

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The Spy with the Red Balloon

This is the second book in the Balloonmakers series by Katherine Locke. I don’t think I mentioned this in my Girl with the Red Balloon post but it ended with no resolution. But I didn’t mention it because I knew there was a second book. Well, just so you are prepared – The Spy with the Red Balloon is a completely different storyline. Ok, it’s not completely different. It obviously relates in the timeline of balloonmakers and magic. But it does not have the main characters from the first book.

It was good though. It takes place during WWII, both in Europe and America. A brother and sister are, on their own, trying to make sense of their magical abilities when the Army recruits them to help with a mission related to bombs. The girl, Isle, stays in America, while her brother, Wolf, is sent to Europe. In Oak Ridge, TN, Isle meets other girls like her and they are given the task of figuring out how to move a heavy and deadly object across the world. Wolf is trained on a secret team and sent to infiltrate and destroy weapons factories in Germany.

They both develop their magic and things are going well until they discover someone else with magic at the Oak Ridge facility who is using it for evil. The book moves along and the character development is good. It also has nice closure at the end with an epilogue 2 years after the story ends.

I don’t mean to say that every book has to have a happy ending, necessarily, but at the end of the first book the reader has no idea what happens to any of the characters. It was just a little disappointing. I’m not sure if Locke is planning on writing more in this series but I would continue to read them if she does!


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The Girl with the Red Balloon

Katherine Locke wrote an excellent fantasy book with some history sprinkled in. I wouldn’t exactly call it historical fiction – and that may be because I am not super familiar with East Germany in the late ’80s – but I feel like it’s more fiction that history. The Girl with the Red Balloon was a quick and engaging read, mainly since it was written for young adults/high schoolers, but I really enjoyed it.

The main character, Ellie, unknowingly travels back in time to 1988 East Berlin when she grabs a red balloon while on a school trip. The Berlin wall is up and she finds herself with a crowd of magicians and runners helping people escape. But they now have a new mission – to figure out how the magic made the balloon, and Ellie, travel across time. And this is made even more complicated when others are found dead after being pulled from another time by balloons. Ellie’s relationships in 1988 grow and she is torn between a desire to maintain these relationships but also return home to her present time. Everything culminates when she and her friends figure out who is responsible for tampering with the balloons and then try to make things right.

The book is an interesting mix of fantasy with some historical base in East Berlin when people could not leave and could not really live freely. I like books like this, although I do think there can be a fine line of making light of historical events by twisting fiction into them. I definitely recommend this book, especially if you enjoy magic and fantasy. There’s a bit of a love story as well and who doesn’t love that?! Enjoy!