Avid YA nonfiction readers may already know and love the subject of today’s Authors You Should Know post — Steve Sheinkin, author of fan-favorite and multiple honor- and award- winner Bomb: the Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. If you are new to Sheinkin’s work, now is a great opportunity to check it out because his newest book, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, comes out September 22, and it is a must read!
Steve Sheinkin’s US history books are noteworthy for their compelling style and attention to thorough, high quality research. Nonfiction readers appreciate his books because they dig deeper into US history to tell lesser known stories or present unique human perspectives on popular historical events or figures. Dedicated fiction readers, too, enjoy them because of his narrative nonfiction writing style. Under his direction, plots and dialogues flow as they might in a suspenseful novel — with narrative structures full of twists and turns, cliffhanger chapter endings, snappy dialogue, and rich human drama. Historical figures are treated as dynamic and well-rounded actors with authentic and relatable motivations. Yet, conversations and dialogue spoken throughout each book often comes directly from primary sources. Each book typically begins with a strong cliffhanger opening and proceed to unravel how a combination of events and personalities led up to the dramatic conclusion.
Extensive back matter including a glossary, index, and works cited are provided in Sheinkin’s books, modeling the habits of mind and work of a nonfiction researcher for a young audience and providing learning tools for those who want to know more about each topic. Teaching resources for Port Chicago 50 and Bomb designed to meet Common Core nonfiction reading instructional goals are on provided on Sheinkin’s website.
Read on for descriptions of five Sheinkin books to read and recommend:
Though “Benedict Arnold” has become a ubiquitous name to call a traitor, few know the full story of Arnold’s life. As Sheinkin relates in The Notorious Benedict Arnold, Arnold was a Revolutionary War hero before his infamous treachery. Sheinkin keeps readers on the edge of their seats as he relates the political intrigue that leads to the former commander’s notorious demise.
A story filled with con men, prison breaks, double-agents and detectives, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers is sure to be a hit with fans of US history and suspenseful novels alike. In a situation so wild we might not believe if we didn’t have the historical evidence to prove it, Billy Boyd, master counterfeiter, is jailed and his colleagues make a plan to get him released. The plan? To steal Abraham Lincoln’s body from its grave and use it as ransom to bargain for Boyd’s release and a cash reward. Pursued by a Secret Service still in its early days, the thieves attempt to commit the crime before they are caught.
This book shares an important story of segregation and unequal treatment among those in the armed forces fighting to defend the United States in WWII. In 1944, Port Chicago, a segregated naval base in California, suffered an explosion killing over 300 sailors and injuring many others. As a result, the surviving black sailors refused to work again until their working conditions were safe. Though about 250 sailors protested, fifty were arrested and charged with mutiny, facing jail time and, in some cases, the death penalty.
The most recognized of Sheinkin’s work is aforementioned award-winning: Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. The book tells the story of the Oppenheimer project and the creation of the first atomic bomb. Sheinkin sets the scene for this dramatic narrative in a gripping prologue in which Harry Gold, Soviet spy, attempts to destroy evidence before he is caught by the by the FBI. The book then heads back in time several years to tell the story of the project starting from getting to know Oppenheimer and ending with the Soviets creating and detonating their own atomic bomb.
Sheinkin’s newest book (set to be released September 22, 2015) relates the history of Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers. The book relates Ellsberg’s personal transformation from public servant to political activist and the resulting political disruption due to his actions, including the Watergate break-ins and Nixon’s resignation. The connection between Ellsberg’s leaks of the Pentagon Papers and the recent Snowden leak is evident, and, at the end of the book, Sheinkin muses on the similarities of the leaks and the questions they’ve left American society to ponder.