This month’s book for My Scott O’Dell Award Challenge is the 1996 winner, The Bomb, by Theodore Taylor.
The Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction is awarded each year to a children’s book by an American author, usually set in the Western Hemisphere.
In The Bomb, a teen boy named Sorry is one of the 167 people living on the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean who are moved to make way for testing the new atomic weapons in Operation Crossroads immediately following World War II.
This young adult novel begins with Sorry and his family and neighbors living under Japanese occupation. Eventually, the Americans take control of the atoll as they advance toward the Japanese mainland. Uncle Abram listens to radio reports and keeps their neighbors informed of the progress of the war, including the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
However, soon after the war, the U.S. military pressures and manipulates Bikini residents into leaving their home because the U.S. has decided their atoll is the best place to test atomic bombs.
Sorry determines to stop the test.
Bikini Atoll and Operation Crossroads–My knowledge of this was rudimentary, at best. I appreciated learning about the residents of Bikini.
The U.S. dropped two bombs in the first round of testing. One detonated in the air and one in the water. There were many further tests during the next decade.
Although Taylor wrote in his author’s note that his novel was loosely based on the people moved from Bikini, he had personal experience with Operation Crossroads. He was a sailor on the USS Sumner, the ship which headquartered much of the operation’s early implementation. In Taylor’s epilogue and author’s note, he also wrote about what happened later to Bikini’s “nuclear nomads.”
Two Stories in One–Taylor used a interesting structure to tell two stories at the same time. The text of the novel is Sorry’s story. However, Taylor also interspersed between chapters a short nonfiction narrative of the history of atomic research, weapons, and Operation Crossroads.
In nonfiction books or magazines, this is called a sidebar. I’ve seen these in picture books, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen a sidebar like this used in a novel. This was an effective way of giving the reader historical context without bogging down the story.
Join me Feb. 28 as I talk about the history and writing lessons I learn from the 2002 award winner, The Land by Mildred D. Taylor.
For more info:
What do you know about Bikini’s nuclear nomads? Have you seen nonfiction sidebars used in other novels?