Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Radioactive Boy Scout, by Ken Silverstein.

The Radioactive Boy Scout: The Frightening True Story of a Whiz Kid and His Homemade Nuclear Reactor, by Ken Silverstein. New York: Villard Books, 2004. ISBN-10: 0812966600; ISBN-13: 978-0812966602. 209 p.

Plot Summary
While growing up in a Detroit suburb, David Hahn became fascinated by science. He took apart every electronic device he could find, and performed chemistry experiments in his basement lab. While trying to earn his Atomic Energy badge for the Boy Scots, David became obsessed with nuclear power. He attempted to build his own nuclear reactor in his backyard; the device he created threw off toxic radiation and sparked an environmental emergency that threatened his entire town.

Critical Evaluation
This nonfiction book reads almost like a novel, it's so interesting. Silverstein paints David's naivety in such a way that his misguided actions are easy to understand. This short portrait of an interesting new item will interest budding scientists (although hopefully, they won't want to follow in David's footsteps!).

Reader’s Annotation
While working on an Atomic Energy merit badge for the Boy Scouts, David Hahn build a nuclear reactor in his backyard, sparking an environmental emergency.

Author Information
Ken Silverstein is the Washington editor for Harper's Magazine, and writes Washington Babylon for Harper's online. He has covered subjects such as links between American oil companies and foreign governments, political corruption in Washington, and intelligence collaboration between the CIA and foreign governments of countries including Sudan and Libya.

Besides his writing for Harper's Magazine and this book, Silverstein  has also written for Mother Jones, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Slate, and Salon. From 1989 to 1993, he was a correspondent for the Associated Press in Brazil. He lives in Washington, D.C. A more detailed biography can be found at Harper's Online.


Curriculum Ties
Science: nuclear power

Booktalking Ideas
-What do you love to spend your time doing?
-The joy of building and creating
-Science as a refuge from real life

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 8-12. Some science descriptions may be beyond the capabilities of younger high school students, depending on their aptitude.

Challenge Issues

I included this book because it was selected as a YALSA sci/tech pick, as well as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults in 2005.


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