'Bomb,' 'Moonbird,' 'Impossible Rescue' Make for Riveting Nonfiction

By Macpherson, Karen | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 8, 2013 | Go to article overview

'Bomb,' 'Moonbird,' 'Impossible Rescue' Make for Riveting Nonfiction


Macpherson, Karen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Even kids who aren't normally drawn to nonfiction may find themselves swept up in some of the great new nonfiction books for younger readers. Written in a narrative style, each of these books reads like a page-turner-of-a-novel, with one big difference: Everything in them is true.

Here's a closer look at a trio of fine new nonfiction books for young readers. Adult nonfiction fans also likely would enjoy them:

* We already know how it ended, but author Steve Sheinkin still manages to keep us on the edge of our seats with "Bomb: The Race to Build -- and Steal -- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon" (Flash Point/Macmillan, $19.99, ages 10 and up).

Mr. Sheinkin, who won critical acclaim for his biography, "The Notorious Benedict Arnold," combines his considerable research skills with skillful writing to present several interrelated stories -- all centered on the intense competition among warring nations during World War II to be the first to have a nuclear bomb.

While Mr. Sheinkin writes of well-known people, such as J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led the successful U.S. effort to build the first bomb, he also delves into the stories of others involved in the race. For example, he looks at why an American named Harry Gold decided to pass on American nuclear secrets to the Russians. And, in some of the most gripping parts of "Bomb," he details how a band of hardy Norwegians, part of the Resistance, helped destroy a factory housing a critical ingredient for the Nazis' nuclear-bomb-making attempts.

Well-organized, well-sourced and filled with black-and-white photos, "Bomb" offers a riveting new take on a now-familiar piece of history. There's no wonder why it was one of five finalists this year for the National Book Award, in the Young People's Literature category. (Note: Readers also might enjoy a new novel, "Shadow on the Mountain," in which author Margi Preus gives a fictional account of Norwegian Resistance efforts in World War II; Amulet, $16.95; ages 10-14).

* Here's how award-winning nonfiction author Phillip Hoose introduces the star of his newest book: "Meet B95, one of the world's premier athletes. Weighing a mere four ounces, he's flown more than 325,000 miles in his life -- the distance to the moon and nearly halfway back. ... But changes throughout his migratory circuit are challenging this Superbird and threatening to wipe out his entire subspecies...."

So begins "Moonbird: A Year on the Wind With the Great Survivor B95" (FSG, $21.99, ages 10 and up), Mr. Hoose's elegantly written tale of an extraordinary bird facing significant environmental challenges. It's a tale of hope and courage as scientists study what makes B95 able to overcome problems such as decreased food sources along his yearly migratory route while thousands of other birds die. …

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