Zindel, Paul. The Gadget. HarperCollins, 2001. ISBN 0-06-027812-9. $15.95. 184 pp. A 5-6 FI Reviewed by Lynn Sorensen It is 1945. Thirteen-year-old Stephen travels alone from England to join his father in a mysterious town on a New Mexico mesa. Dr. Orr and his fellow physicists are developing a weapon they refer to only as “The Gadget.” Curious, Stephen and his new friend Alexei try to discover what’s going on. After men disguised as monks chase them through Santa Fe, the Orr’s housekeeper warns Stephen not to trust Alexei. Stephen and Alexei secretly observe the first test of the A-bomb, after which Stephen’s father confines him to town. Rebelling, he sneaks away to Alexei’s ranch where he discovers that Alexei and his father are Russian spies. After a harrowing chase involving a vicious dog, men with guns, and a speeding train, the Russians are captured, and Stephen is reconciled with his father. Zindel accurately uses historical data in this interesting introduction to a little known subject. He includes appendices that contains a time line for important World War II events, biographies of the physicists involved, and bibliography of sources. These are useful for class discussions as well as reports. Zindel tells the story in third person, but the reader sees only what Stephen sees. This heightens the suspense and keeps the reader hooked. Stephen’s fear that his father doesn’t understand or care about him will appeal to younger readers, but the voice is too young and the solution too pat to hold a young adult audience. The cover will attract more boys than girls, although the story itself appeals to both. This is an entertaining, quick read about a little known subject.
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