Written for middle school age children, this book races along like a political thriller and will hook most readers, this adult included, with its all too real story from the Vietnam War era. I was in high school when the top secret Pentagon Papers were printed in newspapers around the country, so I remember Daniel Ellsberg and the revelations he made public, but author Steve Sheinkin fills in details that were unknown at the time, at least by me.
For people who weren’t alive then, this history will present them with an unsettling look at the motivations of past presidents, both Democratic and Republican. None of them wanted to be the first American leader to lose a war, so the military action in Vietnam dragged on and on, while the number of people killed continued to climb with no possible victory in sight. Watergate and Nixon’s eventual resignation are covered as part of the events surrounding the release of the Pentagon Papers.
It was a very different cultural climate then–a divisive time when four students protesting the war were shot and killed by the National Guard at Kent State University–but there are obvious parallels to even that story in some of today’s news headlines. The book finishes with a “hero or villain?” discussion of Edward Snowden and his more recent actions exposing classified CIA documents. This is a thorough and thoughtful introduction for young people that will be interesting for many adults too.