Review of The Secret Project

The Secret Project
by Jonah Winter; illus. by Jeanette Winter
Primary, Intermediate    Beach Lane/Simon    40 pp.
2/17    978-1-4814-6913-5    $17.99

You mightn’t think the Manhattan Project would be a likely subject for the tidy iconographer Jeanette Winter, even while such books as Mama (about the Indian Ocean tsunami) and The Librarian of Basra (about the Iraq War) demonstrated her interest in, thematically, the big picture. The text by Winter fils unfussily grounds the story in its landscape — the mountains of northern New Mexico — observing the transformation of a “quiet little boys’ school” into a “secret location which has no name” where scientists work on the code-named “Gadget.” The eerie, silhouetted paintings of the bomb-makers at work contrast dramatically with the pink-purply illustrations of the desert outside (where another Winter subject, Georgia O’Keeffe, is seen painting a mesa). When the Gadget is secretly moved to its testing grounds, the palette grows more ominous, fading to gray for the countdown, and then the pictures spectacularly erupt in both size and color for the detonation. The closing spread is completely, ominously black. An author’s note supplies more information about the event and its repercussions, but the text itself, concise and thorough, stands on its own, its dispassionate accounting just the right counterpoint to the contained terror in the art.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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