2012 National Book Awards Finalist
Mac Teen Books Website
Winner of the 2013 YALSA award for non-fiction
Sheinkin has written a book that should be read by everyone from middle grade readers on up. Even those readers that you struggle with, young and old. It is filled with photographs and documents and it is not just one of the best books written last year, it's one of the best books written, period. Sheinkin follows the race to split the atom, understand fission and enter not only the arms race, but the nuclear age.
I read with amazement and horror as some of the greatest minds in history got together to defeat Nazi scientists who'd stumbled onto the way to split the atom. An odd assortment of brilliant scientists were intrigued by this puzzle and worked diligently to figure out its uses and keep ahead of the Nazis. It was a great time for the amassing of great minds. The questions and the possibilities and the problem drew them all in and they threw themselves wholeheartedly into the project. Thanks to their efforts, they found the way to end World War II, which was cause for celebration, except for the massive death toll.
Sheinkin tells the story to great affect. The reader follows along from the splitting of the atom to the famous Einstein letter and the exodus of the great Jewish minds from the reach of the Nazis. You are transported to the sites of spy missions and secret meetings. The pitfalls and perils are clearly and nail bitingly parsed out as the race goes on. This is a masterful telling of a world altering story.
I've never been one to kid myself about how much my life experiences and even my mood affect what I read and how I feel about it. This book is a great example of that. I enjoyed every page, but found myself going back and forth between how exciting it must have been for the scientists to make these amazing discoveries and knowing the dark side of it all. I always got the impression that the men of the Manhattan Project were so focused on proving their patriotism and learning and doing all they could with this peek they'd gotten into the tiniest bits of the universe, that they weren't prepared for the destruction it would do. Beating the Nazis, and then ending the war were lofty goals. Splitting the atom and entering into the atomic age put them all right there in position to usher in a new world. Creating new and better ways to get the job done with the atomic and hydrogen bombs were great puzzles to be solved by the world's greatest minds. I believe all of that, but I can't imagine how it must have realize just what those bombs did when they were actually used. How would you feel if you were so single minded that you solved a problem and answered questions and discovered things no one knew existed and that the culmination of all that wonder and diligence and hard work was a weapon unlike any that has ever been unleashed before, or since?
Okay, enough of me and my thoughts. How about a video? Here is one of the many many video offerings concerning Mr. Sheinkin and his masterful creation: