Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Year of the Bomb (Book)

Author: Ronald Kidd. Release date: 2009. Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781416958925.
Plot summary: Paul, Arnie, Crank and Oz are best friends living in Sierra Madre, a suburb of Los Angeles, in 1955. The boys love spending their summer days at the local theater watching the latest horror movies. When they learn that a new movie called Invasion of the Body Snatchers is set to be filmed in their town, they’re ecstatic. The boys get to see the movie being filmed and even become friends with the director, Don Siegel, and a beautiful extra named Laura Burke. But when they learn that an FBI agent is working on the movie set to determine if anyone involved in the film is a communist, their summer of fun turns into their own hunt for Russian sympathizers.
Review:  The Year of the Bomb opens the door for tweens to learn about a time many may not be familiar with, the communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era. Friends Paul, Arnie, Crank and Oz are a likeable gang of teenage boys who fill their days in much the same as their 2011 counterparts would: exploring the world through the eyes of the movie camera. Many classic horror films are mentioned in the book and will undoubtedly prompt curiosity on the part of young readers who want to learn more about Invaders from Mars or Invasion of the Body Snatchers. What makes the story so interesting is that it makes reference to real people, places and events. In a way, the novel is a history lesson disguised as a story about a group of friends in the 1950s. While The Year of the Bomb is not for everyone (tween girls might not be as interested in this title), it is an entertaining and well-written story that holds a lot of appeal for readers who are interested in this particular historical period.
Genre: Historical fiction
Reading level: Grades 4-8
Similar titles:  N/A
Personal thoughts:  I began reading this book not knowing quite what to expect, but was very pleased with what I found. The McCarthy-era is one of the most interesting and strange periods in American history and I love that Kidd created a book for tweens that looks into it. I had some familiarity with the movies mentioned in the story, but it definitely peaked my interest in watching more classic horror films, which I’m sure would be the effect upon tween readers as well.
Themes: Friendship, 1950s, McCarthy-era, communism, horror movies.
Awards/Reviews: Junior Library Guild selection, positive review from School Library Journal.
Series Information:  N/A
Character information:
Paul – Teenage boy who spends most of his time with his friends watching horror movies at the theater. He has a strained relationship with his parents and sister and uses his friends and the horror films as an escape. He becomes enamored with beautiful movie extra, Laura.
Oz – One of Paul’s friends who enjoys watching horror films. He is very knowledgeable about Hollywood because his father was involved in movie making before being accused of having communist tendencies.
Crank – Paul’s most headstrong friend. He believes strongly in fighting communism, and is somewhat of a bully to his other friends.
Arnie – The wimpiest member of the group. He is always getting sick when he feels nervous and is unsure of himself.
Laura Burke – A beautiful and kind movie extra who befriends Paul and the rest of the boys.
Darryl – An FBI agent working on the set of Invasion of the Body Snatchers to discover if anyone involved in the film is a communist.
Annotation:  The year is 1955 and Paul and his buddies are thrilled when a new horror movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, is set to be filmed in their home town. Little do they know that something worse than body snatchers are lurking on the set: the FBI is investigating to determine if anyone involved in the film is a communist.

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