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Summary: The story of the Atomic Arms race spans three continents. It all begins when scientists and governments alike learn about the discovery of nuclear fission by German physicists. When they realized the potential effect the experiment could have, information on nuclear fission disappeared from the public eye. Then the race began, as the United States and Great Britain, Germany, and Russia each worked furiously to build an atomic bomb. Physicists were recruited or simply taken by force to top-secret laboratories. At the same time, British operatives went behind sent Norwegian insurgents back into Norway to cripple the German’s atomic bomb program. For its part, the Soviets had a ring of spies who were extracting information from America’s Manhattan Project so they could build their own bomb. The race was on, and the results would be cataclysmic. This is a nonfiction history of the multi-national effort to turn science into weaponry.
Type of Reading: independent reading, reluctant reader
Recommended Age: read together: 12 and up; read yourself: 12 and up
Young Reader Reaction: Steve Sheikin has transformed a historical event into an intense story of deceit, genius, and extreme risks. The combination of photos, quotes, and primary documents create an exciting, spy-themed book that will draw the reader’s attention from the start. the book is detailed and fast-paced, written in a way that the basic science behind this incredibly complex bomb and the military tactics used can be easily understood. The personal reflections of the characters and the shifting moods are skillfully incorporated into the story, which really sets it out from a bland history lesson, which mainly contains facts. I highly recommend Bomb to anyone who is even minutely interested in World War II. It is a good read for high school students who want a more extensive look at the Manhattan Project and for middle school students as introductory material for the war.
Adult Reader Reaction: Fascinating to the point of being breathtaking. The story is fast-paced and thrilling, showing readers that nonfiction can weave an engaging story. There are lots of characters, and the story does jump around a bit, so it may be frustrating for some young readers.
Pros: Readers of all ages will be wrapped up in this World War II race against time.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This could well be a book you add to your history shelf.
Educational Themes: There are so many layers to the story that go beyond World War II itself. This is a study of the crossover of science and military aims, international cooperation and antagonism, and misinformation, too.