On My Bookshelf: Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

April 10, 2017

Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is literary nonfiction that reads like a spy thriller. America's efforts to build the atomic bomb, the sabotage of German weapon manufacture, and the Soviets attempts to steal American secrets are woven together in this action packed story. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.




Why I liked it: Bomb is literary nonfiction, but it reads like a thriller or spy novel. It's chapters are short and packed with action that propels the plot lines forward. One storyline focuses on the Americans' development of the atomic bomb. The other two storylines follow Soviet spies trying to uncover the Americans' design and America's attempts to prevent Germany from developing an atomic bomb first. It was occasionally hard to keep track of characters because there were so many and the plot lines frequently alternated.
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is literary nonfiction that reads like a spy thriller. America's efforts to build the atomic bomb, the sabotage of German weapon manufacture, and the Soviets attempts to steal American secrets are woven together in this action packed story. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Classroom application: The book would be a great one to recommend to boys or war enthusiasts or paired with a unit on WWII or the Cold War. It could also be in connection with a physics course. The author provides detailed research notes at the end and the book could be used as a mentor text to inspire students' own literary nonfiction. With its short, action packed chapters it would make a great read aloud.

The ethical issues in the book would make for interesting classroom discussion. Two scientists working on the atomic bomb project in the United States share information about it with the Soviets. One of the men has Communist leanings, but the other's motivation is so that the United States does not become a unchecked power as the only country with an atomic bomb. The other decision related to ethics is of course the decision to use the bomb, twice, on Japan. The book paints a picture of the immediate destruction, but does not give much detail about the lasting effects on the environment and the people in the bombed areas.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Bomb for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



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