Roaring Brook Press, 2012. 266 pp. Includes Source Notes, Quotation Notes, Photo Credits and an Index.
It is easy to see why this was a 2013 Newbery Award Honor winner, as well as the 2013 winner of the Robert F. Seibert Informational Book Award and the 2013 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. It was also a Finalist for the National Book Award, Young People’s Literature category. When the awards were announced at the ALA Media Awards (the Librarian Oscars), the excitement in the room was electric. As I sat there and listened to all the clapping and screaming from the hundreds and hundreds of librarians in the room, I instantly put it on my “to read” list. Yes, it’s THAT good!
In breathtaking detail, using period photographs, Sheinkin tells how and why the United States decided to build the first atomic bomb during WWII. His chapters are short and informational, with cliffhanger endings. Spying, cloak and dagger scenes, revealed hidden secrets and more are all woven into this great educational thriller.
Included are chapters in which readers learn of the work being done in Germany to create their own bomb, as well as the immense need for speed in the United States to beat Germany and, hopefully, get a quick end to the war. Readers are privy to various commando operations carried out with the goal of destroying whatever Germany created, and the incredible tenacity exhibited by the Soviet Union’s KGB to find spies amongst the American scientists. These spies, while working for the U.S., passed along crucial information to the KGB which enabled the Soviet Union to build its own bomb. We also learn of the incredible work put into the project by various scientists and physicists, and gain insight into their backstories.
The arms race has never been explained in clearer detail, as readers aged 14 and older will learn much about American and world history from reading it. I know I did, having only known about what happened after the bomb was dropped and not what happened before, during and after it.