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Award-winning author talks about bomb, espionage

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Steve Sheinkin, award-winning author of “Bomb: The Race to Build- and Steal- the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon,” visited Los Alamos for the first time last week as part of the Authors Speak Series at the Mesa Public Library.

The book, a piece of non-fiction for young adults, follows the story of the atomic bomb’s birth and the chaos that followed as three continents raced to control the use of this new weapon.

“About 10 years ago, I made a decision to start writing textbooks that kids will enjoy reading,” Sheinkin, who previously wrote generic history textbooks, said.

Without divulging too much information from “Bomb,” Sheinkin read the book’s prologue, which sparked audience interest. Then, aided by a picture-heavy slideshow, he proceeded to introduce the crowd to the most interesting scientists mentioned in his work, citing trivia and fun stories about them along the way.

Since its release, “Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon,” has gained awards such as the Newbery Honor, Sibert Medal, YALSA Award for Excellence and a finalist position for the National Book Award.

“’Bomb’ was the most honored children’s book for the last year,” Angie Manfredi, Head of Youth Services at the Mesa Public Library, said when introducing the guest. She had kind words in describing the speaker, whom she had met before. “I met him a year ago and I begged him,” she said, describing her persistence in convincing him to visit Los Alamos. As for the book, Manfredi has two thumbs up. “It reads like a true crime thriller.”

Part of Sheinkin’s research included reading many spy novels. “I wanted it to be as exciting to read as a novel,” he said of “Bomb.” The same type of attitude was applied to his previous works, such as “The Notorious Benedict Arnold” and “King George,” making the titles enjoyable reads even for those not interested in American history.

Though his current book has taken the young adult nonfiction world by storm, Sheinkin does not want to be a one-hit wonder. Currently, he is working on another World War II title, which focuses on the story of African American sailors in Port Chicago, California. In 1944 segregated America, 5,000 tons of ammo blew up as these sailors were working.

The U.S. Navy decided to label the happening as an accident and move on. When sailors decided not to return to work, 50 of them were charged with mutiny. Sheinkin’s story, which is set to debut in early 2014, digs deeper into this incident.

The Authors Speak Series will continue on June 27, when author John Nichols, best known for his “New Mexico Trilogy.” Nichols will speak about his latest novel, “On Top of Spoon Mountain.”
-Ada Ciuca