As I read the book, I was swept up in the excitement, the glamor, the intrigue, I was rooting for the Americans (even though I knew the outcome)–while all the while, at the back of my mind there was this niggling voice, saying, “yeah, but it’s a bomb.” And then I got to the last paragraph, where he says, “In the end, it’s a difficult story to sum up. The making of the atomic bomb is one of history’s most amazing examples of teamwork and genius and poise under pressure. But it’s also the story of how humans created a weapon capable of wiping our species off the planet.” Um . . . yeah. That pretty much sums it up.
But that’s the amazing thing he does: he shows both of those realities. Just like the scientists he describes, we readers have to hold both truths in our minds at the same time, and he makes it possible for us to do just that.
Your comments a couple of weeks ago about this book are right on. He doesn’t moralize, just tells us the story, using the words of the participants. Most of the events of this book were familiar to me, although I have to say Sheinkin does the best job of explaining the basics of the atomic bomb, and the difference between the uranium bomb and the plutonium bomb that I’ve ever read–I might even be able to remember it this time around!
And those Norwegians! Weren’t they great? Reading the chapters about the destruction of the heavy water plant was like watching a wonderful adventure movie (in fact, I suspect I may have actually seen a movie based on this event at some point).
So, I noticed that several people over at Heavy Medal were talking about this book as a Newbery possibility, and I think it is right up there as a contender for both the Printz and Nonfiction awards. Where do you think it fits on the age scale? I’m more inclined to think of it as a YA book, just because I don’t think the under-14 crowd has quite enough science or history background to really appreciate it. But I could be wrong. Thoughts?