Cover image for The gadget
The gadget
Zindel, Paul.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, [2001]

Physical Description:
184 pages ; 22 cm
In 1945, having joined his father at Los Alamos, where he and other scientists are working on a secret project to end World War II, thirteen-year-old Stephen becomes caught in a web of secrecy and intrigue.
Reading Level:
590 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.5 4.0 46858.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.3 8 Quiz: 24290 Guided reading level: NR.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Newstead Library X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
Clearfield Library X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
Hamburg Library X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
Orchard Park Library X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
Williamsville Library X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
Audubon Library X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

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An Army ambulance sped by. No siren, only a dome on its roof flashing red. It halted in front of the high-security Tech Area, where several men wearing silver coveralls and carrying glistening instruments rushed out. Dr. Orr and Oppenheimer walked quickly toward a rolling gurney that held a man half wrapped in an aluminum body bag. The man was shaking. Something bad had happened. Very bad. For a moment Stephen believed he was back in London. He was on the roof again, and there were bombs falling...

Author Notes

Paul Zindel Born on Staten Island, New York, Zindel was raised by a single mother who pursued a variety of odd and mostly unsuccessful jobs and took in terminally ill patients to supplement the family income. Due to her eccentricity and restlessness, the mother moved the family from one apartment to another, making it difficult for Zindel to form lasting friendships. As a consequence, the boy lived in the world of his imagination, developing interests in both science and writing. Zindel majored in chemistry at Wagner College on Staten Island, completing both bachelors and masters degrees. During this period he also took a creative-writing course offered by the playwright Edward Albee. After college he worked briefly as a technical writer for a chemical company and then discovered a more fulfilling vocation as a teacher of chemistry and physics at a Staten Island high school. It was during this period in the early 1960s that Zindel was able to develop his potential as a playwright by drawing on his own background as well as the experiences of his young students. The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds premiered at the Alley Theater in Houston in 1965, was presented in a condensed version on television the following year, and finally opened off-Broadway at the Mercer-O'Casey Theater in 1970. Because of a fire in the theater, the play was moved, with a new cast, to the New Theater on Broadway, where it ran for a total of 819 performances. In addition to being enormously popular, Gamma Rays earned in 1970 an Obie Award as the best play of the season, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award as the best American play, and the Vernon Rice Drama Desk Award for most promising playwright. In 1971 the play was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Gamma Rays is the story of an embittered, half-mad widow, Beatrice Hunsdorfer; her teenaged daughters, Ruth and Tillie; and Nanny, a decrepit old woman who boards with them. The family lives in chaos, with Beatrice dealing out petty vengeance to everyone. Nanny has been abandoned by her daughter. Ruth is wanton, untidy, and subject to seizures. Tillie, however, has become interested in science and enters her marigold experiment in the science fair; by exposing the marigold seeds to radiation, she shows that some produce normal plants, others produce mutations with beautiful double blooms, while still others die. The metaphor, of course, is that Tillie has emerged from her chaotic environment as a beautiful and whole person, a human "double bloom." Zindel's other plays include And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (1971), The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild(1973), Let Me Hear You Whisper (1973), and Ladies at the Alamo(1975). While these plays continue to show Zindel's skill in writing excellent roles for women, none of them have matched the critical and popular success of Gamma Rays. Since the late 1960s, Zindel has also written several novels for young adults. The Pigman (1968), which is about a lonely widower and two destructive teenagers, has sold more than 1 million copies. His other novels include My Darling, My Hamburger (1969), I Never Loved Your Mind (1970), Pardon Me, You're Stepping on My Eyeball (1976), Confessions of a Teenage Baboon (1977), and The Undertaker's Gone Bananas (1978). As in Gamma Rays, these works display not only a penchant for grotesque humor but an uncanny awareness of the problems of teenagers. Zindel's works, which also include several screenplays, explore the themes of loneliness, escapism, and eccentricity. His best works are humorous, perceptive, and warm; they present an affirmation of life emerging from desperate and grotesque circumstances. He is especially noted for his excellent women's roles, which has helped sustain him as a best-selling playwright for school and community groups. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-12. When teenage Stephen is sent from bomb-battered London to be with his militant father in New Mexico near the end of World War II, he thinks his biggest challenge will be warming up to his unfeeling dad. Quickly, however, he discovers that his father's secret work, which will alter the fate of the world, is the problem. Why is every scientist, including a man named Oppenheimer, referred to only in code? Why does Dad mistrust Stephen's new Russian friends? And why, Stephen wonders, does everyone seem to have hidden agendas and ulterior motives? Stephen eventually discovers the devastating answers to these questions in this grim but fast-paced, irresistibly involving suspense novel. Zindel takes occasional dramatic license for the sake of telling the exciting story, which ultimately provides a graphic, first-person view of the Manhattan Project, supplemented by a time line of the development and deployment of the first atomic bombs. --Roger Leslie

Publisher's Weekly Review

Zindel maintains the page-turning immediacy of his recent novels (The Doom Stone; Reef of Death) while examining a serious piece of WWII history: the making of the atomic bomb. Through the eyes of 13-year-old Stephen, the son of one of the scientists working in Los Alamos, N.Mex., Zindel reveals the moral dilemmas lurking behind a veil of secrecy. Stephen's father works side by side with Robert Oppenheimer and other renowned physicists. Stephen gets wind of the danger involved in their covert experiments after one of the scientists is hospitalized; the victim, Dr. Soifer, piques Stephen's curiosity and alerts him to the potential disasters that could result from the "Gadget." Stephen befriends Tilanov, whose father also works on the base, and they set out together to find answers about the mysterious project, an investigation that leads to danger and disillusionment. In Stephen, Zindel combines a canny mix of innocence and intelligence, and thus allows readers to examine carefully a complex set of questions about moral and political issues and responsibilities. The novel challenges idealized views of patriotism and unconditional trust. Readers will come away from this story with much food for thought, and can go on to further reading thanks to the book's comprehensive list of historical events and descriptions of figures who played a key role in constructing these first bombs. Ages 11-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-9-A suspenseful and fast-paced read. In 1944, 13-year-old Stephen is living in London amid the constant threat of German air raids that have already taken the life of his favorite cousin and soul mate. Fearing for his safety, Stephen's mother sends him by boat, then train, to join his father, an American physicist, in Los Alamos, NM. The boy's new home is on "Bathtub Row" of "Site Y," a tightly secured military base surrounded by high fences and attentive guards. Anxious to be united with his father, he is disappointed to find the man distracted and tired from working on a project he is unwilling to discuss. The mystery enveloping the base piques Stephen's curiosity and he accidentally ends up in the hospital room of a dying man who warns him about "the gadget." He is befriended by an older boy and, in a dramatic climax, they secretly follow the scientists off base and witness a horrific explosion, the first atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945, in the Jornada del Muerto Desert. In an epiphany, Stephen realizes the magnitude of this event and through his eyes, so do readers. Zindel's attention to historical accuracy is evident throughout. Unfortunately, Stephen's story is not as carefully crafted. Special circumstances and conveniences allow him to always be in the right place at the right time and a few incidents strain credibility. Overall, though, this book is an exciting introduction to the time period.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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