During World War II, the U.S. raced Germany to build an atomic bomb. Germany needed a heavy water plant in Nazi-occupied Norway to succeed so resistance fighters in Norway, backed by the British, schemed to destroy the plant. Meanwhile the Soviets, knowing they couldn't catch up, sought to steal the technology from the Americans. In a skillful narrative, Sheinkin plays these three stories off of each other, ratcheting up the suspense in each of them. He draws a striking picture of Robert Oppenheimer and his team of physicists at Los Alamos who, unknown to them, had spies for the Soviets in their midst. Their excitement over their research and especially testing the bomb contrasts with their increasing concern about its consequences. The attempts at sabotage by the Norwegians will have readers on the edge of their seats. A real sense of drama, grounded in rich details and quotes, pervades this must-read nonfiction on one of the most important topics of our time. Winner of the Sibert Award and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. A Newbery Honor Book and one of five National Book Award Finalists. Bibliography, source notes, index.
Reading Std #3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text. The development and interaction of the three main threads are key to this book's effectiveness. Have students analyze how and why Sheinkin combined them. They can also look at how Oppenheimer changes over the course of the book. Another possible topic to track is the morality of building and using the bomb, which emerges as a theme with arguments on both sides.