Among the winners of awards at this winter's American Library Association conference was Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. It won both the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, as well as being named a Newbery Honor Book. Though these awards firmly identify Bomb as a book for middle and high school readers, I believe it works well with adult readers as well. I enjoyed it.
Of course, my perspective is different from that of young readers. Though I was not around when these events occurred, I remember the resulting Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union built huge nuclear arsenals aimed at each other. There was assured mutual destruction if the weapons were ever used, which some historians contend assured our survival. This might be news to young readers. For me, it is a review, but even then, I found stories that I had not heard and read with interest.
I was also impressed with how well Sheinkin characterized the players in the drama. No one is vilified. Readers can grasp why the scientists, spies, federal agents, generals, and political leaders of various nations felt and acted as they did. Readers can see why President Truman felt justified in using atomic weapons on Japanese cities. Likewise, they can understand why Robert Oppenheimer led the effort to build the first generation of atomic weapons and then refused to develop the second. Sheinkin judges no right or wrong. Even with the scientists who passed their secrets to the Soviets, the author simply reports.
For adults, Bomb is a quick read. For students it is a helpful introduction to a period that shaped the world we have today. Illustrations are well-chosen and the index is helpful. A worthy award winner.
Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon. Roaring Books Press, 2012. 266p. ISBN 9781596434875.