Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, September 21, 2015

Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War 
by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-59643-952-8
Grades 7 and up

Fans of Bomb and Port Chicago 50 will not be disappointed with Steve Sheinkin's latest work, Most Dangerous. In true Sheinkin style, the prologue launches readers into an exciting scene as G. Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt break into the office of a psychiatrist in an attempt to discredit Daniel Ellsberg. Chapter One then introduces readers to a young Daniel Ellsberg who graduated from Harvard and joined the Marine Corps. Ellsberg was then recruited by John McNaughton to work on Vietnam policy at the Pentagon.

The book describes how the U.S. became involved in Vietnam and provides readers with an overview of Vietnamese history needed to understand the conflict. Middle school and high school readers will gain insight into the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement, and how Daniel Ellsberg changed history by leaking the classified Pentagon Papers.

The most exciting parts of the book are when newspapers publish pages from the Pentagon Papers as the government races to stop classified information from being made public. As one newspaper is forced by the courts to stop publishing classified information, the Pentagon Papers are leaked to another news organization. During this time Daniel Ellsberg and his wife remain in hiding to avoid being arrested. Young readers who may have limited knowledge of the Watergate scandal will get a front row seat as Sheinkin describes Liddy and Hunt's botched attempts to break into various offices including the DNC offices in the Watergate Hotel.

Sheinkin's meticulous research, exciting narrative writing style, and use of quotes make this a thrilling historical account of a tumultuous time period in U.S. history. In addition to interviewing Daniel Ellsberg, Sheinkin read dozens of books and articles to research the events in the book. (The bibliography lists 96 books and articles.)  History teachers could use Most Dangerous to spark debate about freedom of speech and national security.

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