Wednesday, May 5, 2010


100 Suns by Michael Light (355.825119 LIO 2003) has just recently arrived in the Doucette Library and is leaving me feeling a little mystified, fascinated, and horrified, all at the same time.

This is an oversized, coffee-table type book showing mostly black and white photographs of nuclear test explosions between 1945 and 1962.  Detonations were either in the New Mexico or Nevada deserts or over the south Pacific.  I doubt that very many people will have this book lying about on their coffee tables.

Most of us know what a typical mushroom cloud looks like and you will find these included here, too but we are shown so much more.  There are a wide range of photographs of various cloud shapes and colours but also of people, typically soldiers, in close proximity to the blasts.  This is one of those books in which meaningful layers are created by the reader’s own prior knowledge about the atom bomb. There is a terrible beauty here that I think could be a starting point in classrooms.

But a starting point for what exactly?  Science, social studies and even art could be integrated using a book like this. 

In a previous blog (see Lost and found opportunities) I wrote about a novel, The Green Glass Sea that takes place during the 1940’s, in an American desert compound where the atomic bomb was being developed by scientists. The main storyline is the relationship between two girls living on the base as their parents work on a secret project.  I really enjoyed the book and think it has a place in the classroom but wondered what kid would want to read this.  And what would they make of the whole secret project aspect of the story.  (It isn’t really explicit until the end about what has been going on.)  The story of the two girls’ is strong so maybe it doesn’t matter.  But, as I was reading the novel I found the tension slowly building because I knew what the secret project was all about. Would kids?

There is a great connection between 100 Suns and The Green Glass Sea.

Will students be engaged by these photos?  I would love to know.

Take a look for yourselves and let me know what you think.


Ellen klages said...

I'm one of the people that does have this book on my coffee table, and I am just as conflicted. I know very well how terrible each of these bombs could be, and yet there is a beauty to the physics of the explosions. I thought about this book when I saw some of the photos of the volcano in Iceland -- such power, such awesome disruption.

Tammy Flanders said...

Hi Ellen.
Thanks for your comment. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one to see the beauty and horror simultaneously.

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