The Bomb. Yes, both the book Bomb: the Race to Build- And Steal-the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, and well, THE BOMB, which President Obama will talk about this week when he becomes the first serving President to visit Hiroshima.
We were the first country to develop it. We were the
first only country to drop it. Twice.
Steve Sheinkin, the author of Bomb, was a textbook writer who felt guilty about writing boring history for massive amounts of kids, so he quit that job, and started writing nonfiction for young adults, and man oh man, does he do a great job!
I decided to read this book not because I wanted to know more about the development of the nuclear bomb, but because I wanted to know what the world of YA nonfiction had to offer. The section at the library is a bleak island of sadness populated by sad memoirs about self-harm and books you would need for a boring book report. Not that I would ever begrudge the need for any of these books, but they’re not the kind of thing to attract life long reading. And the YA genre is a huge thing right now! Teenagers are reading! Fantasy! Romance! Graphic Novels! They want to be entertained, and the bleak island of sadness at the library ain’t gonna cut it. Grab them now nonfiction! Pull them in and teach them things, broaden their minds, but dear God don’t bore them! Don’t you remember what it was like to be a teenager? Hormones are raging, you’re hungry constantly, insecure, tired, you’re brain’s still not all connected…there’s too much going on- you’re part kid and part adult, so appeal to that! Use your imagination, make it exciting! History isn’t dull.. history’s horrible! Kids love that! Give them the death, destruction, and anguish they crave.
Don’t think it’s possible, well, Steve Sheinkin’s doing it, and he’s do it well! So there naysayers! Proved. You. Wrong. Ha!
This book had it all. Intrigue, biography, war, murder. I’ve always loved the Oppenheimer quote:
“Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of worlds.”
This quote is so hauntingly correct in its context. Oppenheimer said it after the bombs had dropped on Japan. He felt a great amount of guilt after WWII and tried to stop the proliferation of the nuclear bomb, and it’s bigger sister the hydrogen bomb, but he was unsuccessful. I don’t know how to feel about Oppenheimer. He’s a bit of an enigma. He helped build it, what’d he think was going to be done with it?
The best part of the book was about the Norwegian secret agents that were dropped into German controlled Norway to blow up the plant creating Heavy Water (used to produce nuclear bombs). These guys, I can’t remember how many (8?) parachuted onto this snowy mountain, waited around, spied on the plant, and then snuck into this heavily guarded plant and blew it up. It was unbelievably good reading! And I’d never heard of it. The whole thing would make a great movie.
That’s how this book was. It’s for a younger audience, which makes it more concise and engaging (not a lot of backlog “story”).
It’s told in three parts: the bomb making, the Soviet spies trying to steal the bomb plans, and the sabotage in Germany.
America was making a bomb to drop on Germany, not Japan. Japan just wouldn’t concede, and America got sick of fighting, so they dropped the granddaddy of all bombs down on their heads, and that was that. Japanese voices were represented (at the end), and if you’d recently read Voices From Chernobyl (which I had), you would have been horrified to think about the radiation impact on these people’s lives (and let’s not forget THE WORLD), but they didn’t know then what we know now.
Why in the hell did the Japanese keep fighting after the first bomb? Honor I guess. Stupid honor.
And the Hydrogen bomb. Yeah, that little ball of horror is like a thousand (I don’t know the actual scale) bigger than the bombs dropped on Japan. And yeah, a bunch of counties are sitting pretty on these little apocalypses too. A nuclear war between Pakistan and India would kill us all.
Just a little food for thought.
This was an awesome book, a little bright light on the island of YA nonfiction sadness.. which I take as a call to action! Let’s give our teens a beacon! Let’s reel them in and teach them the joy of learning. Let’s create a better YA nonfiction section at the library!
Here’s a link to more YA nonfiction titles! There are more, but they’re untested by me, so hopefully they’re good. I can’t make any promises.