cover image The Bomb

The Bomb

Theodore Taylor. Harcourt Children's Books, $15 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200867-3

In 1946, Taylor (The Cay) served aboard the USS Sumner, part of a naval team that set the stage for post-war atomic and hydrogen-weapons testings near Bikini Atoll in the Pacific-experiences at the crux of this heart-wrenching novel. As Taylor tells it, the Bikini natives live simply in accordance with age-old customs, taking all they need to subsist from the land and the sea. World War II intrudes when Japanese soldiers establish a weather station in their pristine village. Then, when U.S. Marines capture the island in the ""Battle"" of Bikini (a misnomer, since the Japanese killed themselves rather than be taken prisoner), the islanders hold a celebration. Little do they know that the same government that has liberated them from the hated Japanese will shatter the peace forever, convincing them to vacate their idyllic residence, placing them in the media's invasive, insensitive spotlight and rendering their homeland uninhabitable. Three very real and likable characters-a courageous 14-year-old boy; his outspoken uncle, who after years away returns to the island with insight into modern society; and the island's perceptive schoolteacher-underscore the tragedy. A haunting, soundly researched work. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)