Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

Newbery Honor Book for 2013, Bomb by Steve Sheinkin follows the story of the development of the first atomic bomb during World War II.

From the possibility to the discovery of nuclear fission through the Nazi heavy water manufacture to the Manhattan Project and the attempts of the Soviet Union to steal the bomb design, Bomb is a riveting book, exposing the heavy toll the atom bomb takes on the developers, the secret-stealers, the people of Japan, and those of us still living in a nuclear age.

We follow Robert Oppenheimer, the leader of the Manhattan Project, which is the name the US called its development program for the atom bomb, and all the other colorful physicists who created the world’s most powerful weapon.  We see their struggles and triumphs, their sense of duty and desire to prevent Hitler from acquiring the bomb, their sense of helping the Russians in order to even the playing field, and their immense concern seeing its power afterwards.

This book humanizes the developers, gives the reasons behind the development, creates the sense of urgency, and the devastating results afterwards.  For those of us who didn’t live through this time period, Bomb takes up back to what it was like during World War II and fills in a void (at least for me) of the details.  I loved learning all of this since I only had a rudimentary knowledge of the bombing like most people.

An amazing book for all history buffs who want a relatively easy read without getting bogged down in the details of physics.  A few black-and-white pictures.  Probably for older kids although my 9 year old loves the story.  It goes into just a bit of detail of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Highly recommended!

The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D Schmidt

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D Schmidt is a Newbery Honor Book for 2010.  And for good reason.

We follow a seventh-grade boy named Holling Hoodhood in 1967 during the Vietnam War on Long Island.  He is the only Presbyterian in his class so he has to stay at school on Wednesdays while the rest of his class leave early for Catholic school or Jewish school.  His teacher, Mrs. Baker, is resentful.  She makes Holling clean the chalkboard and clean out the coat closet.  He thinks his teacher is out to get him.

She assigns him extra work as well which include reading the great plays of William Shakespeare.  This leads to him performing in the Christmas performance of The Tempest.  He begins to memorize whole passages of Shakespeare and learn lessons from the plays as well.  His father is overbearing and is very self-absorbed with making sure his architecture business grows and succeeds.  He is also convinced Holling will succeed him in the future.

This book is laugh-out-loud funny as Holling deals with his Tempest costume of yellow tights and white feathers on his butt.  He deals with a bully and pet rats he accidentally let loose in the school.  He learns it’s more about giving than spending money on a date.  Mrs. Baker takes him on a field trip to study architecture and Holling sees buildings and the history they hold for the first time.

There is a very moving scene in the book where Holling rescues his older sister who ran off with her boyfriend and realizes it’s a mistake.  “The first time that you know you really care about something is when you think about it not being there, and…the emptiness is as much inside you as outside you.”  We get to see Holling grow in maturity and into his own as he realizes how much he loves his family and friends around him and realizes there’s more to life than architecture.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  Historically accurate and entertaining I haven’t read this good of a book in a long time.  I read it outloud to all of my kids and they all loved it!

“Sometimes the real world is like Hamlet.  A little scared.  Unsure.  A little angry.  Wishing you could fix something you can’t.”