Note: This post is part of a series on School Library Media/Materials for a course.


Sheinkin, S. (2012). Bomb: The race to build-and steal- the world’s most dangerous weapon. New York: Roaring Brook.

Summary: Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal- the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon is historical science book that is engaging and reads like a novel. The story follows several principal characters in the development and espionage surrounding the first atomic bomb, created in Los Alamos New Mexico at the height of World War II. Readers follow Robert Oppenheimer and his group of scientists at Los Alamos from inception to testing of the first atomic bomb, later to be released over the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima; Norwegian resistance (as Norway was occupied at the time) as they attempt to sabotage the German heavy water facility that would enable the Nazi’s to beat the allied forces in the race to build the bomb and various American scientists and citizens who worked with the Soviets to help Russia steal the plans for Oppenheimer’s scientists’ successful atomic bomb. The book weaves science, politics, and military intelligence and tactics across the United States, Europe and the USSR to provide a well-rounded account of all aspects of the development of this most deadly weapon.

Quantitative reading level: Lexile Level (from Lexile Find a book) 920L; ATOS book level (from AR Book Finder) 6.9, Suggested interest Level Upper grades 9-12 (though some have introduced the title earlier.)

Qualitative reading analysis (Text Complexity was analyzed using SCASS/Achieve the Core Informational Text Rubric.)

The text structure is slightly complex. Connections between ideas are unambiguous and clear and organization is chronological and easy to follow. The text features are not essential to understanding the content and the use of photographs are easy to understand and are mostly supplementary to understanding the content. The language used is conventional and straightforward. Terminology is contemporary and would be familiar to the reader. Sentence structure is primarily simple with some complex constructions.

The purpose of the text is for the most part explicitly stated but there is some implied purpose based upon content or source.

Knowledge demands of the book are moderately complex. Subject matter knowledge mostly relies on common practical knowledge as well as everyday knowledge, but there are some occasions for more academic knowledge that would not be beyond the recommended age group.

Content Area: Science, History

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts/Science and Technology

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.9 Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.6 Analyze the author’s purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text, identifying important issues that remain unresolved.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.

Next Generation Science Standards:

HS-ETS1-1.          Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.

HS-ETS1-3.          Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Curriculum suggestion: Supporting text for Physics, Engineering, chemistry or history classes studying WWII. This text could be used to supplement and deepen the understanding of science concepts related to engineering and physics and for history (WWII). Another option could be incorporated into a new idea such as “nonfiction Friday” (or other day) in English/Literature classes to support ongoing curriculum in science and history courses.

Awards: National Book Award Finalist, Robert F. Siebert Medal, Newberry Honor Book, Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Winner (YALSA.)


Digital Content:

Los Alamos National Labs

Atomic Archive