A twist on history

Published Mar 6, 2013 at 11:17 am (Updated Mar 6, 2013 at 11:17 am)

Fiction is cool. Everyone loves to delve into something imaginary, including me. So, when a nonfiction book rolls my way, I usually don’t pay much attention to it.

Author Steve Sheinkin, however, always adds interesting tidbits of information that you wouldn’t find in any history book. He’s recently released two books about very different subjects that are worth your time.

The first book, “Bomb,” won a 2013 Newbery honor and details the creation and ideas behind the atomic bomb. Almost everyone involved in the project gets mentioned, from the scientists behind the theories to the Soviet spies who stole critical information from the United States.

The surprising thing about the book is that it focuses on people with whom you may not be familiar. Have you ever heard of Robert Oppenheimer, Harry Gold or Knut Haukelid? They play crucial roles in the story. The big names do appear briefly, usually for a funny moment.

For instance, the reader gets treated to Albert Einstein relaxing on a beach before being alerted that the Germans could potentially wipe out the country. The book is exciting, and chapters usually end on cliffhangers, which always work for me.

Sheinkin’s other book, “Lincoln’s Grave Robbers,” takes place in the 1800s. Back then, there was a problem with counterfeit money and the people who created it, known as Coney men. The Secret Service, who then had the sole duty of stopping Coney men, achieved a huge victory by imprisoning one of the best replicators of money, Ben Boyd.

This loss of talent greatly impacted the Coney men’s business. To get Boyd out of prison, the criminals created a rather extreme plan – steal Abraham Lincoln’s body and sell it for the release of Boyd and a huge sum of cash. This book is kind of silly and not as exciting as “Bomb.”

It’s an arbitrarily random plan that readers know can’t end well for the criminals, especially because one of the members of the team is actually a double agent for the Secret Service. The main interest that I had in the book was that a group of people thought they could get away with taking the body of our most beloved president.

I recommend both books as they are superbly written. The stories should interest all readers that want to hear about true events that don’t make it into most history books.

Jeremy Farbman is an eighth-grader at Jefferson Middle School in Mt. Lebanon.

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