Written by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Published on February 7th, 2017, The Secret Project is a brand new, page-turning picture book about the development of the atomic bomb during World War II in Los Alamos. An all-boys school in a remote area is cleared out and filled in with scientists and workers who have been given a very secret task. The task is so secret they cannot call it by its real name; instead, they call it the Gadget. They work for a long time on the Gadget, and then go out into the middle of nowhere to test the Gadget. The book ends with a countdown and an explosion, then darkness.
This book has a lot of mystery and suspense to it. No real historical terms are used (i.e. The Manhattan Project, atomic bomb, World War II, etc.), which makes the story all the more mysterious. Winter has a creative use of text design for the countdown, where the numbers descend down the page. Teachers can read this slowly and in different tones of voice to create more suspense. The black page at the end really leaves the audience silent and pondering the effect of the explosion.
Anyone can enjoy this book. If younger children do not know the historical context of the novel, they could enjoy it as a fun mystery. Students and teachers who understand the surrounding context can follow along and look deeper into what happened during this important part of World War II.
You can make a lot of cross-curricular connections with this book because it brings up a lot of different topics. The artist Georgia O’Keefe is painting on a canvas in the desert on a page, so you could bring in an art history lesson about the arts during World War II and the 1940s. The book talks about atoms and fission, which allows for science application about nuclear weapons or nuclear physics concepts. And of course, you could bring in history lessons about World War II, the Manhattan Project, and world powers. Overall, this book eloquently addresses topics that might be tricky to bring up in the classroom and puts it in words and pictures that are easy for everyone to imagine and understand.
Posted by: Jenna Adamczak