Bomb: The Race to Build -- and Steal -- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Bomb: The Race to Build -- and Steal -- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon Book Poster Image
Complex, suspenseful story of developing The Bomb.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Bomb gives a detailed account of the events leading to the Manhattan Project: the development and deployment of the first atom bombs. The book also explains the complex issues of war, politics, and patriotism that made scientists and the military feel that having The Bomb was necessary, and that led to the Cold War/arms race between the United States and Russia. Many of those who had important roles in inventing the bomb, protecting state secrets, and procuring information for the Soviets are introduced in this book. Some of the science is explained. Also included are resources, plus photos of all the major players, and of equipment, supplies and explosions.

Positive Messages

The events leading to development of the atom bomb and nuclear arms race are explained in detail and with great insight into the positive and negative consequences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Whether some of the historical figures in this book constitute positive role models is largely a matter of opinion. Certainly, many of the scientists who worked on developing the bomb were brilliant, and were motivated by patriotism, which seems noble. At least one of the "traitors" mentioned in the book who gave secret information to the KGB was motivated by love of country, as well. Mainly, the book portrays the scientists, military officials, and private citizens involved as complex human beings with personal reasons for playing whatever roles they played in these historical events.


The author seems to consider it part of his responsibility to show the human side, the death and destruction, caused by The Bomb, as well as its scientific and strategic importance. Graphic descriptions of the dead and wounded after the attack on Hiroshima are included, including blood, darkness, a charred landscape and falling structures. The bombing of Nagasaki is explained in less detail, simply listing the vast numbers of killed and wounded citizens. Earlier in the book, Sheinkin describes dead and wounded people after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and other wartime events where people were drowned or shot.


A couple of characters say "dammit." President Truman calls Robert Oppenheimer a "son of a bitch."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Most of the events in this book take place before the Surgeon General's warning, and characters in the book smoke cigarettes. Drinking alcohol is mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the nonfiction Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, a 2013 Newbery Honor Book, gives a detailed, suspenseful account of developing the first atom bombs, and the consequences of inventing and dropping The Bomb that effectively ended World War II and led to the Cold War/arms race between the United States and Russia. Author Steve Sheinkin explores the complex events, individuals, and political attitudes that came into play. This book will interest tweens and teens with more than a passing interest in chemistry and/or physics, World War II, and the Cold War. The author does not shy from describing the ravages of war in graphic detail: People are shot and drowned, and many thousands are killed and wounded when cities are bombed. Adults in this book drink alcohol and smoke, but that barely registers in this context.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEmma D. January 26, 2018


Our very precocious nearly-8 yr-old is very into science. His uncle's a physics prof. He was really into this book. But it was way to much for him to handl... Continue reading
Adult Written byrkovacs August 29, 2013

Great for classrooms

There is also a literature unit based on this book for teachers. It is geared toward high school English or social studies classes and is based on Common Core s... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byjgiacalone September 4, 2019


This book goes into incredible detail on how the atomic bomb works to how the soviets tried to steal it, and everything in-between. My favorite non-fiction book... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old July 22, 2013

Great book

Great and tells alot about both history and physics. Tiny touch of swear words, but not enough to be harmful. There are positive role models by showing what can... Continue reading

What's the story?

Steve Sheinkin's BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD--AND STEAL--THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON offers a detailed, suspenseful story of developing the first atom bombs. The author reveals the complex events and ideas not only behind the invention and deployment of the first bombs, but also behind the Cold War and arms race. Included are accounts of research by Robert Oppenheimer and his team of scientists, the political climate during World War II, and spying by U.S., German and Russian operatives. Sheinkin also provides suitably horrific descriptions of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the bombing of Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Is it any good?

Sheinkin successfully turns these many-faceted historical events and ideas into a suspenseful story. For tweens and teens who are interested in World War II, science and/or the Cold War, this is a fascinating, edu-taining read full of information and insight.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Robert Oppenheimer's changing attitude toward his research and invention. Why does he feel it's so important for the United States to develop the bomb, and why does he later speak out against further arms buildup.

  • How is this account of World War II resemble, or differ from, others you've seen or read?

  • What does author Steve Sheinkin mean when he says, "It's a story with no end in sight. And like it or not, you're in it"?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

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