The Gadgetby Paul Zindel
Near the end of World War II, scientists in Los Alamos, New Mexico, are working on a project that will alter the fate of the world. Thirteen-year-old Stephen Orr is living at a top secret military base with his father who is a leading physicist building the atomic bomb. Stephen realizes the dangers involved when one of the scientists becomes hospitalized as a… See more details below
Near the end of World War II, scientists in Los Alamos, New Mexico, are working on a project that will alter the fate of the world. Thirteen-year-old Stephen Orr is living at a top secret military base with his father who is a leading physicist building the atomic bomb. Stephen realizes the dangers involved when one of the scientists becomes hospitalized as a result of working with the project. The scientist alerts him to disasters that could come from The Gadget. Stephen feels it is up to him and his friend Tilanov to find the answers that lie behind this veil of secrecy.
- Random House Children's Books
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.19(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.54(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
October 16, 1944
Stephen waited until his mother and aunt were out in the kitchen making coffee before he slipped away from the family dinner table. He grabbed the binoculars from the sideboard. His cousin Jackson got the crystal radio set out of the hall closet, and the two boys headed for the door.
"Snoopy bruthas!" Jackson's four-year-old sister, Molly, yelled out, pointing at them. "Snoopy bruthas!"
Everyone knew she was trying to say Stephen and Jackson were nosey--and looked like brothers--and it was true. Both were gangly with thick, brown hair and squared, sturdy chins.
Stephen certainly had been an inquisitive kid ever since he could crawl. One Christmas he was taken to Macy's department store and he asked the Santa Claus if he used 5 Day deodorant pads. Another time he had a one-eyed baby sitter and used to pretend to fall asleep so he could watch her take out tier glass eye and put it in a case for the night. And Jackson had never been a slouch in the curiosity department either. He'd never left a door closed nor anyone's package unopened.
The boys were halfway out the door when Stephen's mother came back and spotted them.
"Be careful,"' she said. "If you hear the air-raid sirens, you both get back down here straight away."
"Right, Mom," Stephen said.
Molly laughed and ran to her phonograph. She started winding it up so she could sway and sing to "G.I. Jive" until she drove everyone crazy.
Jackson led the way up the stairs of the apartment house two at a time. They heard the sounds of other families behind the closed doors: the clinking of dishesbeing washed and stacked; Mr. Erikson playing scales on his piano; near the sixth floor the smell of shepherd's pie and baking apples. The Rohr twins were getting tangled tip ni a leash as they came down the stairs with their new spaniel puppy.
Above the top floor Jackson pushed open the heavy metal door to the roof. He and Stephen scooted to their favorite niche in the shadow of a squat, rusting water tank. Every night since Stephen and his mother had arrived in London, Jackson and lie had made it a ritual to sit beneath the stars or watch the fog creep in from the Thames.
"I Arish it was summer and we were horseback riding or catching salamanders again," Stephen said.
"Me too. Kirkby River was the best," Jackson said. "The turtles. And the rope swing."
"Remember the leeches? The ones on your back and your horse's legs!"
"You're going to make me throw up," Jackson said.
The boys laughed as they set tip their home made crystal radio--a small coil with magnets and wires mounted in the bottom of a shoe box. Stephen dragged the end of a sharpened wire over the surface of the quartz. There was static, then the faint voice of a woman singing.
"Let's see if we can get Portugal again," Stephen said, moving the wire toward the center of the crystal.
The radio voices faded in and out.
I think I hear German," Jackson said. "That's what it sounds like."
Stephen strained to hear. He was still trying to make out the voice when there came another sound he did recognize. But it wasn't coming from the radio. He felt his stomach tighten.
"Airplanes," he said looking to the night sky. "Where are they?"
Jackson got to his feet. "I don't know," he said.
Warning sirens began to shriek.
"We'd better go back down," Stephen said. "They're going to want to get us to the shelter."
Jackson pointed toward the horizon. "Look, here they come." He grabbed the binoculars and looked through them. "It could be our planes. R.A.F. coming back from a raid."
There was a distant flash of fight and the high are of antiaircraft fire. "No. It's Luftwaffe. German planes. They're bombing," Jackson shouted. "Come on." He turned and ran back across the soft tar of the roof and its grid of drainpipes. Stephen followed on his cousin's heels to the roof door. Jackson began banging on the thick sheet of steel.
"What's the matter?" Stephen said.
"It's locked. We forgot to prop it open."
"Let me try."
Stephen was twelve, a year and a half older than Jackson. He was stronger, and he put his shoulder next to Jackson's. Together they grunted, strained to force open the door. It wouldn't budge. Jackson grabbed a piece of jagged loose pipe and tried to wedge it like a crowbar between the door and its frame. The racket of planes and bombing was nearer.
A single bomb exploded. The sky around them began to glow-splashes of yellow and purple mixed with thick curls of black smoke and the shouts of frightened people on the street. The boys frantically kicked the door, trying to jolt it off its hinges.
Another bomb. Nearer.
There was sudden fear in Jackson's eyes. He looked dazed now. Confused. Stephen pulled him down to huddle between an air duct and the low, tiled roof wall. We'll be safe here, Stephen thought. The bombing will stop and there'll be the all-clear siren and...
Now the bombs fell in clusters, so near they could hear them whistling down before the roof-shuddering blasts. Then there was another high-pitched noise, the mounting scream of a falling rocket bomb. Jackson jumped up, terrified. He had seen what a V-2 could do.
Stephen grabbed his arm.
"Jackson! Stay down."
His cousin clapped his hands over his ears, shook free of Stephen's hand, and ran from the shriek.
"No!" Stephen yelled. "Come back."
The noise was deafening. The rocket bomb hit on the left, and the entire building shook violently...The Gadget. Copyright © by Paul Zindel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Paul Zindel (1936-2003) was born and raised on Staten Island in New York. After teaching high school science for several years, he decided to pursue a career as a playwright. His first play, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Shortly thereafter, he wrote his first novel for young adults, The Pigman, which has gone on to sell millions of copies. Mr. Zindel wrote more than fifty books over the course of his life, including the popular My Darling, My Hamburger; The Pigman’s Legacy, a sequel to The Pigman; and the autobiographical The Pigman and Me.
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