Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bomb: The race to build-and steal-the world's most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin

To my credit, I had this book checked out and was half the way through it before it won every major ALA youth nonfiction award last week.  Every award was well deserved.  This was the most gripping nonfiction I have ever read. The author used to be a text book writer, and he notes in the back cover fly leaf, that he is "making up for his previous crimes by crafting gripping narratives of American history." If all history was written like this, history would be every child's favorite topic at school. This is the story of the Manhattan Project from the point of view of a variety of people involved.  It also follows the work of spies from five nations who were trying to either steel the technology from the US or prevent Germany from developing their own bomb.  I am as well versed on the history of the Manhattan project as anyone, having lived, and my husband having worked, at Los Alamos for a summer. But I never realized how amazing successful the Soviet government was in infiltrating the project.  Soon after the first successful test of the bomb at Trinity, spies inside the inner circles at Los Alamos had given complete plans for the bomb to Soviet agents. One of my favorite spy factoids was that at one point one of the agents used milk to write the technical information on a newspaper.  Every cub scout has written a secret message in milk or lemon juice and then made it appear by heating it.  It is amazing the spies used such a simple tactic to steel information that created the whole cold war. Anyway, this is a must read for adults and older children.  It might be too frightening for kids under 11 or 12, because it really brings to high relief the reality of the nuclear threat that still exists in the world. (266 p)

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