Nonfiction Grades 7 & up…Most Dangerous


Sheinkin, Steve. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsburg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. Roaring Brook Press, 2015. 978-159643-9528 370p. $19.99. Gr. 7 and up.

How does an attitude shift? In the early 1960s, Daniel Ellsburg was a “cold warrior” dutifully working for the U.S. government as a data analyst and committed to defeating communism. Sheinkin shows how Ellsburg changed his point of view to become the leak of the Pentagon Papers, spearheaded by Henry Kissinger, “seven thousand pages of documentary evidence of lying, by four presidents and their administrations, over twenty years.” Ellsburg spent nearly two years in Vietnam collecting data to build the government’s case for war, but the hopelessness of the American position there, combined with the misrepresentation of the war’s “success”, gradually led Ellsburg to realize that the war was absolutely wrong on every level. The history is perfectly told in this new text.  Readers can understand the differing viewpoints and feel the explosion that is to come. THOUGHTS: Expertly researched and expertly told from start to finish this is a must have for all junior high and high school libraries.   

Fantastic, enthralling nonfiction that once again proves Sheinkin one of the best writers of YA nonfiction today, this story will help students to understand the background behind decades of complicated governmental actions. It will also push them to consider the current role of whistleblowers (Edward Snowden) and the support and backlash they receive. Students aren’t likely to know the name Daniel Ellsburg, but a solid push from librarians and teachers will get this into the right hands. This could be used in American History, AP Government, or Civics courses to explain the inner workings of government agencies and the “fall” of U.S. government’s trustworthiness in the eyes of the general public. An added bonus is that students can interview an older generation about their remembrances of the Vietnam era, Daniel Ellsburg, and/or the Pentagon Papers. This book has earned seven starred reviews, was a National Book Award finalist, a New York Times Notable Children’s Book, and a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year.  It is an excellent, eye-opening text on many levels.

959.7; Vietnam War    Melissa Scott, Shenango High School