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The Gadget

The Gadget

by Paul Zindel
The Gadget

The Gadget

by Paul Zindel

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reissue)

$7.99
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Overview

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.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440229513
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 02/11/2003
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 961,916
Product dimensions: 4.13(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.48(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

"I like storytelling. We all have an active thing that we do that gives us self-esteem, that makes us proud; it's necessary. I have to tell stories because that's the way the wiring went in." — Paul Zindel


Paul Zindel, one of the founders of the young adult literary genre, is a writer with a great respect for memory. He has used his own reminiscences of youth, as well as his experience as a high school teacher, to create characters infused with the spirit and longing of adolescence. As he writes in his autobiography, The Pigman & Me:


"Eight hundred and fifty-three horrifying things had happened to me by the time I was a teenager. . . . If you haven't croaked before finishing this book, then you'd understand how I survived being a teenager."


It is Zindel's ability to write about teens with honesty and humor that has made him one of today's most renowned and beloved writers of books for young people. As New York Newsday recently remarked, Zindel is "the rare specimen of a grown-up who seems to have total recall of that emotional roller-coaster ride."


Born in 1936 on Staten Island, New York, Paul Zindel was raised by a single working mother after his father deserted the family when Zindel was two years old. To find work, Zindel's mother moved the family fifteen times during his childhood and adolescence. As a result, Zindel didn't form many close friendships. He turned inward, becoming an adept observer of the world around him, a trait that would serve him well as a writer.


"All of my novels begin with real, specific moments from my own life," says Zindel, and in fact, most of his novels deal with issues that mirror Zindel's experiences as a teen: a fatherless adolescence, a turbulent relationship with a mother, feelings of worthlessness, and the absence of long-term friendships.


In fact, everywhere you look in his work, you'll find reflections of his childhood and adolescence. The search for a father figure is seen in The Amazing and Death-Defying Diary of Eugene Dingman. The exploration of a mother figure with low self-esteem is discussed in Pardon Me, You're Stepping on My Eyeball! And of course, the concepts of mental and physical illness are powerfully dramatized—no doubt motivated by Zindel's 18-month convalescence from adolescent tuberculosis—with characters that populate books from The Pigman and The Pigman's Legacy to Harry and Hortense at Hormone High.


After graduating from Wagner College on Staten Island, Zindel spent ten years as a high school chemistry teacher before writing his Pulitzer prize-winning play, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. He was encouraged by a well-known editor who had seen the play to write a novel for young people, and in 1968 The Pigman, the book which has since influenced millions of adolescent readers and their teachers, was published to wide acclaim.


Most critics of adolescent literature agree that the young adult genre originated in the late 1960s with the publication of several books, one of which was Zindel's The Pigman. Since writing this book, Paul Zindel has helped keep the YA movement flourishing with 12 other YA novels, along with plays, a children's book, a series of books for middle-grade readers, The Wacky Facts Lunch Bunch, and screenplays.


Paul Zindel is married and has two children, David and Lizabeth. And just as his own early life contributed to his novels, the lives of Paul Zindel's children and his wife shape what he thinks and writes about.


Writing! magazine said of Paul Zindel's books, "Zindel's fiction is a dazzling juggling act—despair, hilarity, uncertainty, deep love, and unutterable hatred all fly toward and away from each other with increasingly disquieting speed. Only one thing is certain: You can never be sure where and how things will fall." The same could be said for Zindel's remarkable life.

Reading Group Guide

The Reality of War

Social studies classes study the world’s wars and the impact war has on a global society. Students learn about ancient wars and the more modern wars that have been fought in the name of freedom. They know about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. Some students know about the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and the Persian Gulf War. Before the events of September 11, 2001, students in America’s schools knew little about the personal tragedies related to war. War was simply something that happened in books, in another time, and on foreign lands. Now, war surrounds them–on television, radio, and in film. Some know firsthand what it feels like to lose a parent to terrorists, and others wait eagerly in front of the television in hopes of gaining a glimpse of a family member or friend who may be in the Iraqi desert or on the streets of Baghdad. Like the main characters in the novels in this guide, the innocence of America’s children has been marked by violence. A new page of history is being written every day, and it is being done before the eyes of the world’s youngest citizens.

For this reason, it is extremely important that parents and teachers talk with children about war, and offer hope that the world might someday find a peaceful solution to global conflict. Sometimes it is difficult to find the words to explain the complex issues of war, but books are always a good way to spark understanding and conversation. This guide offers discussion for the following books: The Gadget by Paul Zindel; Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead; Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence; Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers, adapted for young people by Michael French; Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian; and For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

Pre-Reading Activity
Engage students in a discussion about the recent war in Iraq, and how it was reported in the news. Divide the class into three groups, and assign each group one of the major newspapers or magazines to read. Ask that they read a few issues of the publications during the time of the war and take note of the major headlines, the views of the journalists, etc. Allow students time at the end of each week to share their findings. What conclusions can be drawn about the role of journalists in war?

1. Stephen is told that he is to trust no one. Discuss how difficult it is to live without trust. What makes Stephen think that he can trust Alexei Nagavatsky? Why does Sewa, Dr. Orr’s housekeeper, warn Stephen about Alexei? How does Stephen betray his father’s trust? What lessons does Stephen learn about trust, betrayal, and truth?

2. Trace Stephen’s fits of anger throughout the novel. How does life on the Los Alamos base contribute to his anger? Describe Stephen’s anger when he finds out about The Gadget. How does Dr. Orr’s explanation of the project outrage Stephen?

3. Dr. Orr tells Stephen, “We were all told we could help the war end.” (p. 149) Discuss whether the government was deceptive with the scientists. How does Dr. Orr avoid being angry with the government?

4. Ask readers to discuss why Stephen is so obsessed with finding out the secret mission at Los Alamos. Why does Sewa feel that Alexei has secrets? What is Stephen’s reaction when he discovers his dad’s secret project? How does Dr. Orr deal with the knowledge that Stephen knows the secret?

5. Discuss why Los Alamos is called “a town that doesn’t exist.” (p. 16) What measures does the government take to make Los Alamos safe and secure for the scientists and their families? How does the government’s security system fail?

6. Compare and contrast the security measures at Los Alamos during World War II to the homeland security issues in the United States today.

For more activities on Images of War, see these titles: For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Lord of the Nutcracker by Iain Lawrence, Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead, Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers adapted for young people by Michael French, The Gadget by Paul Zindel, and Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian.


Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, SC.

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