Newbery Project – Bomb

Bomb tells the story of the creation of the atomic bomb, the sabotage efforts to keep Germany from creating their own, and the spies on all sides trying to discover information. A Newbery Honor book in 2013, it  also won the Sibert, and was National Book Award Finalist and several other accolades to make it the most decorated book of the year.

I certainly am not going to go against the grain, because I can only agree that the writing here was stellar. The author keeps an almost journalistic viewpoint, as though the action were happening right now, allowing him to build real tension as the story progresses, despite the fact that everyone already knows the basics of how the book will end. (Even the most naive child reader will surely be aware that the US has nuclear weapons.)

I learned a lot from the book. Not only was the science behind nuclear warfare explained extremely well for such a short treatment, but a lot of the history was unknown to me. All of the stuff with the Norwegians I hadn’t heard before, as well as most of the spying stuff.

The author has also been getting a lot of praise for his restrained treatment of the morals in the story. His authorial presence is very light-handed, presenting the story and the people involved as they were, with their motivations and actions told in their own words, then letting the reader come to his or her own conclusions about the moral and ethical implications of those motivations and actions. Only in the epilogue does the author take a small break and start talking about the permanent and international implications of atomic weaponry that effect us even now. An excellent book.

Recommended to fans of nonfiction, fans of history, and people who like spy stories, even if they think they “don’t like nonfiction.”

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