Bomb, by Steve Sheinkin, is a stunning work of creative non-fiction that reads with the suspense of a political thriller. Think of Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy, or classic novels of British spy intrigue, but scarier because it's true.
Kids who read Bomb will also enjoy Shadow on the Mountain, a novel by Margi Preus, to see how true stories inform fiction. For instance, after reading Preus' book about World War II intrigue in Norway, I loved my return to Norway with Sheinkin's story into the impossibly cold Norwegian mountains in a fight with the Nazis. I felt as if I personally knew the brave Norwegian patriots. This was fun because I knew the ending, victory for my side.
However, that the Allies had to fight to keep the bomb out of the hands of the German's in 1942 is only part of Bomb. We get a glimpse of Robert Oppenheimer. We also come to understand this brilliant physicist's personal struggle with the moral issues that face bomb creators and governments.
In our era of video games where armies and people are killed on screen in the safety of a family room, it's easy for kids to think there is no threat, that bombs aren't even real. But Bomb is a story of real scientists, real governments, real citizens, and atomic bombs with dire consequences. How did creating such a destructive force affect scientists, the great heroes in this story, emotionally? And what about the American spies who sold secrets to the Soviets eager for the bomb? How did their dirty secrets affect them?
Great YA non-fiction, such as Claudette Colvin by Hoose about civil rights, and Flesh and Blood so Cheap by Marrin, about factory workers' rights, can take readers on an emotional journey. Like these books, but on a global scale, Bomb is about the most fundamental moral issues of our time and our imperfect, and I hope, evolving human solutions.
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