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Thanksgiving 2021 FALLOUT: SPIES, SUPERBOMBS, AND THE ULTIMATE COLD WAR SHOWDOWN by Steve Sheinkin, Roaring Brook, September 2021, 352p., ISBN: 978-1-250-14901-5


“We love to laugh and play and run

And we would never start a war

We’re all afraid of bombs and guns

We know that one fight leads to more”

– Peter Alsop, “The Kid’s Peace Song” (1986)


“‘There is no escaping the fact that nuclear conflict would leave a tragic world,’ declared the opening pages of Fallout Protection, a U.S. government booklet published by the millions in late 1961. ‘The experience would be terrible beyond imagination and description.’

But not to worry! If you happened to survive the burst of heat and the shock wave, there was plenty you could do! Remove clothing that may have been contaminated by radiation. the booklet suggested. Wash your skin and hair. Fill sinks and tubs with clean water.

Then get into your shelter–you did prepare a shelter, right? A well-stocked shelter must have first aid supplies, a radio, flashlight, extra batteries, and cases of food. ‘Select familiar foods,’ the booklet advised. ‘They are more heartening and acceptable during times of stress.’

And don’t forget about a can opener.”


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


In 2012, back when today’s adolescents were being captivated by THE NAPPING HOUSE and GREEN EGGS AND HAM, Roaring Brook published Steve Sheinkin’s BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD–AND STEAL–THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON. http://richiespicks.pbworks.com/w/page/59636694/BOMB


An absolute must-read for tweens and teens, BOMB was subsequently awarded the Sibert Medal; a Newbery Honor; the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction; and was chosen a National Book Award finalist. 


For me, BOMB was history. 

For me, FALLOUT, Steve Sheinkin’s follow-up to BOMB, is my history.


I can vividly recall being in Miss Kalish’s first-grade class (1961-62) and Mrs. Mulvey’s second-grade class (1962-63), and participating in the drills where we would duck under our desks and cover our heads, in order to practice surviving a nuclear attack.


As if.


Thanks to FALLOUT, I understand a million times better now how close we came to having the world end during and around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. No future of the Beatles, moon landings, gay weddings, Facebook, or iPhones. At the conclusion of the book, author Steve Sheinkin explains that, after the fall of the Soviet Union, “former U.S. and Soviet officials began meeting to share their recollections of the crisis, their fear, even their secrets.” 


This explains a lot. I’d spent much of the book wondering how the author had access to so many riveting details regarding discussions and debates taking place in the White House, in the Kremlin, and aboard four Soviet subs that arrived in Cuba, as the action–fifty-nine years ago–was heating up.


I’ve always tried to moderate my fears about military leaders salivating for a war. FALLOUT reveals that, unfortunately, my suspicions are well-grounded. Had JFK given the generals the last word, we probably wouldn’t be here today


The spy stories are a significant aspect of FALLOUT and are equally engrossing. The book begins with the jaw-dropping tale of a Brooklyn paperboy who drops a few coins in a stairwell and accidentally discovers a hollow nickel filled with a Soviet spy’s microfilm. 


Remember Hiroshima.


These days, the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea all possess nuclear arsenals. This Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful that saner minds have (so far) prevailed, and pray that none of these weapons ever gets used or fall into the wrong hands. 


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com






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