Module 11: Bomb—The Race to Build—And Steal—The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

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Book Summary:

In the late 1930s a German chemist made a discovery that would change the world forever: fission. The discovery that radioactive material could be used to split a uranium atom sent scientists, and their countries of origin, into a tizzy. This new discovery could be used to make a bomb the likes of which the world had never seen before. The race was on; everyone wanted to get their hands on the atomic bomb first, even if that meant stealing it. Bomb provides a comprehensive story of the bomb race spanning America, Great Brittan, and the Soviet Union during World War II.

APA Reference of Book:

Sheinkin, S. (2012). Bomb-the race to build-and steal-the world’s most dangerous weapon. New York, NW: Flash Point.

Impression:

This was an incredibly interesting book! There is often a stigma surrounding informational texts, people feel that they are dry and boring. But this was not the case with Bomb. Sheinkin compiled a ton of information from a huge number of sources, made it read like a fictitious espionage story and gave the reader several points of view surrounding the bomb race to consider. Bomb has been marketed for children and teens, but the scope of the book is so large—he writes about the small details in the science as well as overarching ramifications of atomic bomb creation—that it makes the book readable for adults too. Sheinkin provides a lot of detail in the science, but also does so in a narrative manner that lets the book read like a story—a huge feat considering that he compiled a lot of his information from declassified FBI documents. Sheinkin used a multitude of sources to create a “book [that] weaves together three basic story lines: the Americans try to build a bomb, the Soviets try to steal it, and the Allies try to sabotage the German bomb project” (Sheinkin, 2012, p.243). His narrative writing style draws the reader in without skipping the facts. He also provides a lot of thinking points on the creation of atomic bombs once it was all said and done. If anyone is interested in science or history—or wanting to become more interested—then this is the book to read.

Professional Review:

“In his highly readable storytelling style, Sheinkin (The Notorious Benedict Arnold) weaves together tales of scientific and technological discovery, back-alley espionage, and wartime sabotage in a riveting account of the race to build the first atomic weapon. The famous (Robert Oppenheimer) and infamous (spy Harry Gold) headline an enormous cast of characters, which also includes Norwegian resistance fighter Knut Haukelid, whose secret wartime missions prevented Hitler from acquiring an atom bomb. B&w portraits of key players appear in photo- montages that begin each of the book’s four sections. Sheinkin pulls from numerous sources to supply every chapter with quotations that swiftly move the narrative forward. Suspenseful play-by-play moments will captivate, from the nuclear chain reaction test at the University of Chicago to the preparations for and dropping of the first bomb over Hiroshima. In a “genie out of the bottle” epilogue, details of the Cold War’s escalating arms race and present-day weapons counts will give readers pause, especially Sheinkin’s final thoughts: “It’s a story with no end in sight. And, like it or not, you’re in it.” A must-read for students of history and science. Ages 10–up.”

(2012, August 13). [Review of the book Bomb-the race to build-and steal-the world’s most dangerous weapon, by S. Sheinkin]. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-59643-487-5.

Library Uses:

This is the book to use to introduce readers to a non-fiction story. This could be particularly interesting to patrons who need research for Chemistry or science experiments. You could also include it in a book display for science experiments, World War II or Hiroshima. Bonus, show students this video to get their ideas flowing. It shows some high school kids doing an experiment to explain fission using ping-pong balls and mousetraps.

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