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Seeing Through Clouds The Story of an Airship Apprentice by Paul Lagasse

About the Book

Synopsis | Suggested Further Reading | Download Chapter 1


Seeing Through Clouds is a 39,000-word young-adult historical novel set in the late 1930s in Nazi Germany. The story follows the protagonist, sixteen-year-old Erich Lindemann, as he matures from a shy, independent bookworm to a confident apprentice and finally, at age eighteen, to a full-fledged Zeppelin mechanic (or engineer). Along the way, as the Nazis gradually insinuate themselves into the crew and begin to turn friends against each other, Erich's attitude toward the Nazis changes from one of mere annoyance to one of active opposition.

The plot and setting of Seeing Through Clouds provide a unique perspective on an important historical period. Unlike many other young adult books about Nazi Germany, the story focuses on the experiences of non-Jewish Germans. The story takes place after the famous Hindenburg crash, when another Zeppelin -- the Graf Zeppelin II -- actually flew until the eve of World War II. In the story, Erich's Zeppelin is a metaphor for Germany at large.

Author Paul Lagasse started reading about Zeppelins before he was Erich's age. Beginning in college, his growing interest led him to conduct extensive research about airships in museums, libraries, and special collections. In preparation for writing Seeing Through Clouds, he also studied books on the social, political, and institutional history of Germany during the late 1930s. Seeing Through Clouds is based on real events, and conveys an authenticity of time and place that only a lifelong love of learning and storytelling could make possible.

With characters who react to the horrors of Nazi oppression in realistic ways -- some who look away, others who shrug with indifference, and a courageous few who dare to speak up for what's right -- Seeing Through Clouds is a timely reminder that the challenge of living a moral life in uncertain times can either break your spirit, or make you a hero.

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Suggested Further Reading

This list is always growing. If you know a good book that should be listed here, please e-mail me.

When you're looking for one of these books, always try your local library first -- librarians know how to find all kinds of great books and can suggest others not listed below.

If you want copies of your own, try your local independent bookseller. They are treasure troves of great books, and the staff can find it for you if they don't have it on their shelves.

Online used book dealers are also a great place to look for old books. ABEBooks is my favorite.

Books About Zeppelins:

Graf Zeppelin & Hindenburg: The Golden Age of the Great Passenger Airships by Harold G. Dick with Douglas H. Robinson (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1985)

This book was written by an American who lived in Germany and worked with the Zeppelin Company. The book contains many photographs, drawings, and stories about Zeppelins, the company, and life in Germany during the years that Seeing Through Clouds takes place.

The Giant Airships by Douglas Botting and the Editors of Time-Life Books (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1980)

This book is a history of airships from the construction of the first Zeppelin airship in 1900 to the crash of the Hindenburg in 1937. It has many photographs and color pictures that show what the inside and the outside of Zeppelins looked like. It also has pictures and stories of other famous airships and the pioneering explorers from Great Britain, the United States, and Italy who flew them.

Hindenburg: An Illustrated History: Reliving the Era of the Great Airships by Rick Archbold, Illustrated by Ken Marschall (Washington: Warner, 1994)

A large book full of incredible photographs and paintings on the history of the Zeppelins and the famous airships of other countries. Though the emphasis is on the Hindenburg, much of the information is helpful for understanding what life inside her sister ship -- the Graf Zeppelin II -- was like. The book even includes photographs of the inside of one of the Hindenburg's engine cars, which was similar to the one that Erich worked in.
The book also includes two gigantic foldout drawings of the inside of the Hindenburg, which you can use while reading Seeing Through Clouds to identify where the action is taking place.

Books About Nazi Germany:

The 12-Year Reich: A Social History of Nazi Germany, 1933-1945 by Richard Grunberger (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971)

This book, which is a very good history of what life in Nazi Germany was like, is written for adults, so it might be hard for some readers. It has many interesting photographs, and several chapters focus on what it was like to be a boy or girl growing up in Nazi Germany -- what school and home life was like, plus the radio programs you would have heard, the books you would have read, and the movies you would have seen.

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Download Chapter 1

Read before you buy! Chapter 1 is available as a PDF download (297.6kb). Feel free to print the file if you'd like.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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