Steve Sheinkin

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Date: 2022
Document Type: Biography
Length: 2,965 words

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About this Person
Born: July 13, 1968 in New York, New York, United States
Nationality: American
Occupation: Children's writer
Updated:Mar. 9, 2022

PERSONAL INFORMATION

Born July 13, 1968, in Brooklyn, NY; married; wife's name Rachel; children: two. Education: Syracuse University, B.A. Addresses: Home: Saratoga Springs, NY.

CAREER

of children's books and history textbooks. Previously worked as a teacher.

AWARDS

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, for The Notorious Benedict Arnold; Newberry Honor Book, Robert F. Silbert Information Book Award, and Yalsa Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, both 2013, both for Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon; Newberry Honor Book for Port Chicago 50; National Book Award finalist, 2015 and YALSA Award for Excellence in nonfiction for young adults, 2016, both for Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War; Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2020; Sibert Honor Book, 2022, for Fallout.

WORKS

WRITINGS:

FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS

  • North America, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2003.
  • South America, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2003.
  • Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You about the Civil War, illustrated by Tim Robinson, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2008.
  • King George: What Was His Problem?, illustrated by Tim Robinson, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2009.
  • Which Way to the Wild West? Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You about America's Westward Expansion, illustrated by Tim Robinson, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2009.
  • The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2010.
  • Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, Flash Point Press (Crescent City, CA), 2012.
  • (With Ilan Stavans, and illustrator) El Iluminado: A Graphic Novel, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2012.
  • Lincoln's Grave Robbers, Scholastic Press (New York, NY), 2013.
  • The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2014.
  • Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2015.
  • Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler, illustrated by Neil Swaab, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2018.
  • Abigail Adams, Pirate of the Caribbean, illustrated by Neil Swaab, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2018.
  • Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2019.
  • Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot, illustrated by Neil Swaab, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2019.
  • Neil Armstrong and Nat Love, Space Cowboys, illustrated by Neil Swaab, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2019.
  • Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race Across America, illustrated by Bijou Karman, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2019.
  • Fallout: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2021.

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

  • The American Revolution, Summer Street Press (Stamford, CT), 2005, published as King George: What Was His Problem?, illustrated by Tim Robinson, Roaring Brook Press (New York, NY), 2008.
  • The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West, Jewish Lights (Woodstock, VT), 2006.
  • Rabbi Harvey Rides Again: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Folktales Let Loose in the Wild West, Jewish Lights (Woodstock, VT), 2008.
  • Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid: A Graphic Novel of Dueling Jewish Folktales in the Wild West, Jewish Lights Pub. (Woodstock, VT), 2010.

SIDELIGHTS

Along with several history textbooks and a graphic-novel series about a rabbi living in the Wild West, author and former teacher Steve Sheinkin also offers young readers little-known information about American history in books, including King George: What Was His Problem? and Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You about the Civil War.

Originally published as The American Revolution, King George covers frequently overlooked events from the colonial period of U.S. history, from colonial soldiers who fought the Redcoats while naked to frank accounts of the men and women behind the nation's Founding Fathers. According to Booklist critic Carolyn Phelan, Sheinkin's "vivid storytelling makes [ King George] an unusually readable history book."

Sheinkin continues retelling his version of U.S. history in Two Miserable Presidents, a book complete with "lively, interesting anecdotes," according to Booklist reviewer Hazel Hochman. In addition to providing unusual details about the presidencies of James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln, the author also shares stories about the women and African Americans who fought in the War between the States.

Calling Two Miserable Presidents a "very readable effort," School Library Journal reviewer Mary Mueller also cited Sheinkin's mix of "clear prose, objectivity, and good organization," adding that the book's "stories and quotes ... will make historical figures real to readers."

In his self-illustrated The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West and Rabbi Harvey Rides Again: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Folktales Let Loose in the Wild West, Sheinkin combines the history of the American West with traditional Jewish teachings to create the character of Rabbi Harvey, a religious leader educated on the East Coast.The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey finds the newly arrived rabbi sharing bits of wisdom with the inhabitants of Elk Springs, Colorado, and eventually earning the trust and respect of the townspeople.

Sheinkin serves up more lessons in Rabbi Harvey Rides Again, as the well-liked teacher out-thinks several local ne'er-do-wells by using teachings from the Talmud. Reviewing The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey in Publishers Weekly, a critic predicted that "kids of all ages will love Harvey's sugary wisdom and wit," and Kliatt contributor Jennifer Feigelman called the volume "a truly excellent tome that people of any faith will enjoy."

Rabbi Harvey returns in Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid: A Graphic Novel of Dueling Jewish Folktales in the Wild West. Here Harvey is up against a rival rabbi known as Wisdom Kid Ruben, who puts peculiar twists on Jewish tales in order to cheat the locals out of their money.Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Jennifer Miscek noted of this work: "Like any good Wild West dual, good guy Rabbi Harvey's true wisdom wins out in the end, and bad guy Ruben is on the first stagecoach out of town." Writing in Booklist, Ilene Cooper commented: "The illustrations feature deadpan characters and flat prairie colors; both match the droll, understated telling." Similar praise came from School Library Journal reviewer Andrea Lipinski, who felt that the author/illustrator blends "dry wit and subtle humor with sepia-toned cartoons to tell the story of an unusual hero."

In The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery, Sheinkin takes on a more serious tone to detail the life of Arnold, who initially fought with the Americans in the Revolutionary War but later turned traitor, going over to the British side and ultimately dying in England in 1801. His is a story of over-weaning ambition and it is told in a "blend of political thriller, war story, and action epic," according to a Horn Book reviewer. Similar praise came from Booklist contributor Karen Cruze, who noted: "History junkies are in for a treat when they pick up this lively, highly readable biography of the U.S.'s most vilified traitor." A Kirkus Reviews critic also offered praise for The Notorious Benedict Arnold, calling it "one of the most exciting biographies young readers will find." Likewise, School Library Journal writer Karen Elliott observed: "American history is brought to life in this engaging story of revolution and treason."

Sheinkin provides more history for young readers with the award-winning Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon. Here he details all the machinations in the development of the atomic bomb that was ultimately dropped on Japan in World War II. The story follows a cast of scientists, inventors, politicians, and spies from the 1938 German discovery of nuclear fission through to the ultimate development of a bomb by the Americans. The race was on in the United States, the Soviet Union, Germany, and England and focuses heavily on the work done in great secrecy at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, Jane Murphy felt that this work "combines elements of a gripping suspense thriller with the plain truth and realism of its subject, ever reminding us of the 'story' within history." Booklist reviewer Daniel Kraus offered similar praise, noting that the author develops this tale of the Manhattan Project into a "dense, complicated thriller that intercuts the action with the deftness of a Hollywood blockbuster." Likewise, a Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "suspenseful play-by-play moments will captivate" in this "must-read for students of history and science." A Kirkus Reviews critic also had a high assessment of Bomb, calling it a "superb tale of an era and an effort that forever changed our world."

In Lincoln's Grave Robbers, Sheinkin offers an "engaging narration of an outlandish and little known piece of history," according to Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Pam Carlson. Here he tells the story of the attempt by a counterfeiting gang in the late 1860s to steal the president's body and hold it for ransom. This ransom would be the release from prison of the gang's best engraver. Sheinkin details the steps the Secret Service took to foil this plot in a "caper [that] resembles a true crime episode from the Keystone Cops," as Horn Book reviewer Betty Carter observed. A Publishers Weekly reviewer also had praise for this book, calling it a "sizzling tale of real-life historical intrigue," while a Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed it a "good, ghoulish read."

Sheinkin returns to World War II history with his award-winning The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. Here he tells the story of an explosion at California's Port Chicago that left several hundred men dead. The port handled bombs and ammunition that were loaded onto battleships, and the working conditions were such that safety concerns were not addressed. Most of this work was done by African American Navy recruits who were serving their country in one of the few ways they were allowed to at the time. But after the explosion, fifty of these African Americans refused to go back to work until safety provisions were put in place. Their refusal brought on a trial for mutiny that became a national topic and a precursor to the civil rights movement.Booklist reviewer Sarah Hunter felt that Sheinkin's book "shines as he recounts the frustrating court-martial trial that resulted in a guilty verdict for all fifty men." A Kirkus Reviews writer also had praise for The Port Chicago 50, noting that it reveals an "important chapter in the civil rights movement, presenting fifty new heroes." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly reviewer called it a "gripping, even horrific account of a battle for civil rights predating Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr." Further praise came from New York Times Online writer Sarah Harrison Smith, who remarked: "Sheinkin tells this shameful history with the deft, efficient pacing of a novelist. And while photographs, double-spaced type and sunburst graphics at the start of each chapter make the book visually appealing to young readers, [it] is just as suitable for adults. ... It's an impressive work and an inspiring one."

In Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, Sheinkin recounts the story of the former Pentagon consultant and once-supporter of the Vietnam War who changed course in 1971, leaking a huge classified document that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers to the press. This document revealed that the White House had deceived the American public about the objectives and scope of its military involvement in Vietnam, and Ellsberg hoped that its publication would shift public support away from the war. The Pentagon Papers were published first in the New York Times, igniting intense controversy. Ellsberg was labeled as both traitor and the most dangerous man in America, and was charged as a spy; the case, however, was eventually dropped. But the leak eventually had the desired effect. Several weeks after the publication of the Pentagon Papers began, President Richard Nixon ordered aides to burglarize the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist, located in Washington's Watergate building, ostensibly to prevent further leaks from the administration to the media. The burglars' arrest exposed Nixon's criminal actions in what was dubbed the Watergate Scandal, and caused him to resign in disgrace. This deprived South Vietnam of crucial support and hastened the end of the war. As a writer in Literary Hoots put it, publication of the Pentagon Papers "forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicians claiming to represent their interests."

Most Dangerous earned glowing reviews, and was nominated for the 2015 National Book Award. Commentators appreciated the author's thorough research and his use of fascinating, and sometimes comic, detail in bringing the story of the Pentagon Papers to life. For example, Sheinkin tells an anecdote about how Ellsberg outraged his ex-wife by getting his son, age thirteen, to help him make photocopies of the secret documents, prompting her to respond: "You do not take children along to commit felonies." The author also recounts the bumbling of the Watergate "plumbers" who were so inept that they were caught in the act. Sheinkin also includes the perspectives of American pilots who had been shot down over North Vietnam and held as prisoners of war in Hanoi, as well as American politicians, journalists, and Vietnamese officials.

Martha V. Parravano, writing in the Horn Book, observed that the author has "an unparalleled gift for synthesizing story and bringing American history to life." Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Katherine Noone likewise noted the book's "fast-paced and fascinating narrative" and masterful handling of complex material.Booklist reviewer Kara Dean hailed Most Dangerous as "powerful and thought-provoking," and praised Sheinkin's skill in conveying the contexts in which events played out. Jody Kopple, writing in School Library Journal, also admired the book's gripping narrative, adding that the author makes all of the key players, from Ellsberg and Nixon to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, "fully realized characters with strengths, flaws, and motivations that grow ever more clear as the story unfolds." Reviewers also noted that Sheinkin points out parallels between Ellsberg's actions and those of Edward Snowden, who in 2013 leaked classified National Security Agency documents that revealed details of the agency's surveillance programs. Reviewing Most Dangerous in the Washington Post, Abby McGanney Nolan hailed the book as Sheinkin's best to date and said that it "raises important legal questions and shows the links among Vietnam, Ellsberg and the eventual downfall of the Nixon presidency." Similar praise came from a contributor to Publishers Weekly, who, in a starred review, hailed Most Dangerous as a "concise, accessible, and riveting account of history." In Kirkus Reviews, a commentator concluded: "Easily the best study of the Vietnam War available for teen readers."

Sheinkin profiles a Native American sports star in Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. He describes Jim Thorpe's athletic prowess, noting that he excelled in track-and-field in addition to football. Thorpe joined the football team at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, which at the time was coached by the celebrated sports figure, Pop Warner. The combination of Thorpe's natural abilities, Warner's coaching, and the rest of the team's talent led to a surprise winning season for the little-known school. Sheinkin notes that Thorpe went on to compete in the Olympics in track-and-field. "This is a model of research and documentation, as well as of stylish writing that tells an always absorbing story," asserted Michael Cart in Booklist. Writing in BookPage, Jon Little suggested: "Despite its focus, readers need not be sports fans to enjoy this book." Audrey Sumser, contributor to School Library Journal, described the volume as "a thoroughly engrossing and extensively researched examination of football's first 'all-American.' Highly recommended."

Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler finds a girl named Abby and her stepbrother, Doc, having an unexpected encounter with Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln appears to them in a storage room at their school and tells them that he has become so disappointed with kids' disinterest in history that he has decided to stop being a historical figure and take on a different career. Abby and Doc realize that Lincoln's opting out of history could prove disastrous and reshape the country. They travel through time, determined to convince Lincoln to continue on and to run for president. Annette Herbert, reviewer in School Library Journal, called the book "a fun way to entice students to embrace what might seem, at first glance, like boring history." "Readers are likely to enjoy this," predicted Karen Cruze in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews critic described the volume as "a silly story that weaves in a fair amount of history."

In Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot, Abby and Doc return. They time travel back to the 1930s, where they interact with Earhart, the famous aviator. Abby and Doc also make a side trip to Ancient Greece, where they learn about the origins of the Olympics. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly suggested: "Sheinkin creates a graceful blend of true history and outrageous adventure."

Female aviators also appear in Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race across America. Earhart is among the women Sheinkin profiles in this volume. Others include Louise Thaden, Ruth Elder, Bessie Coleman, and Pancho Barnes. Sheinkin also discusses air races in which female pilots participated, focusing on the Women's Air Derby of 1929. Other topics in the book include airplane and flight technology from the early-1900s and attitudes toward female pilots during the time period. "Sheinkin's thorough research and attention to detail make the era come alive for readers," remarked Susan Catlett in School Library Journal. A Kirkus Reviews critic described the book as "suspenseful, informative, and remarkably uplifting." Writing in Booklist, Angela Leeper suggested: "Sheinkin's storylike narration puts readers right into the action, making them gasp and cheer along with the fliers."

FURTHER READINGS

FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 15, 2008, Hazel Hochman, review of Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You about the Civil War, p. 44; August 1, 2008, Carolyn Phelan, review of King George: What Was His Problem?, p. 66; March 15, 2010, Ilene Cooper, review of Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid: A Graphic Novel of Dueling Jewish Folktales in the Wild West, p. 56; October 15, 2010, Karen Cruze, review of The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery, p. 43; September 1, 2012, Daniel Kraus, review of Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, p. 100; December 15, 2012, Francisca Goldsmith, review of El Iluminado: A Graphic Novel, p. 36; February 1, 2014, Sarah Hunter, review of The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, p. 58; August 1, 2015, Kara Dean, review of Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, p. 50; December 1, 2016, Michael Cart, review of Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team, p. 39; November 15, 2017, Karen Cruse, review of Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler, p. 54; August 1, 2019, Angela Leeper, review of Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race across America, p. 49.

BookPage, February, 2017, Jon Little, review of Undefeated, p. 31.

Children's Bookwatch, July, 2008, review of King George; August, 2008, review of Two Miserable Presidents.

Horn Book, July-August, 2008, Betty Carter, review of King George, p. 473; September-October, 2009, Betty Carter, review of Which Way to the Wild West? Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You about America's Westward Expansion, p. 585; January-February, 2011, Betty Carter, review of The Notorious Benedict Arnold, p. 115; January-February, 2012, review of The Notorious Benedict Arnold, p. 19; November-December, 2012, Roger Sutton, review of Bomb, p. 127; January-February, 2013, Betty Carter, review of Lincoln's Grave Robbers, p. 108; March-April, 2014, Roger Sutton, review of The Port Chicago 50, p. 146; September-October, 2015, Martha V. Parravano, review of Most Dangerous, p. 131; March-April, 2017, Patrick Gall, review of Undefeated, p. 110; September-October, 2019, Martha V. Parravano, review of Born to Fly, p. 118.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2008, review of King George; June 15, 2009, review of Which Way to the Wild West?; October 1, 2010, review of The Notorious Benedict Arnold; August 1, 2012, review of Bomb; October 15, 2012, review of El Iluminado; November 1, 2012, review of Lincoln's Grave Robbers; December 15, 2013, review of The Port Chicago 50; July 15, 2015, review of Most Dangerous; November 1, 2017, review of Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler; July 1, 2019, review of Born to Fly.

Kliatt, January, 2007, Jennifer Feigelman, review of The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West, p. 33.

Publishers Weekly, July 24, 2006, review of The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, p. 43; August 13, 2012, review of Bomb, p. 71; November 19, 2012, review of Lincoln's Grave Robbers, p. 58; November 11, 2013, review of The Port Chicago 50, p. 74; July 13, 2015, review of Most Dangerous, p. 70; May 6, 2019, review of Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot, p. 62.

School Library Journal, December, 2005, Steven Engel fried, review of The American Revolution, p. 172; October, 2008, Mary Mueller, review of Two Miserable Presidents, p. 175; September, 2009, Madeline J. Bryant, review of Which Way to the Wild West?, p. 185; July, 2010, Andrea Lipinski, review of Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid, p. 108; November, 2010, Karen Elliott, review of The Notorious Benedict Arnold, p. 142; October, 2012, Brian Odom, review of Bomb, p. 159; spring, 2014, review of Lincoln's Grave Robbers, p. 92; January, 2013, Patricia Ann Owens, review of Lincoln's Grave Robbers, p. 134; February, 2014, Jody Kopple, review of The Port Chicago 50; September, 2015, Jody Kopple, review of Most Dangerous; February, 2017, Audrey Sumser, review of Undefeated, p. 124; January 1, 2018, Annette Herbert, review of Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler, p. 67; September, 2019, Susan Catlett, review of Born to Fly, p. 148.

Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 2010, Jennifer Miscek, review of Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid, p. 256; December, 2010, Pam Carlson, review of The Notorious Benedict Arnold, p. 461; October, 2012, Jane Murphy, review of Bomb, p. 394; April, 2013, Pam Carlson, review of Lincoln's Grave Robbers, p. 688; August, 2015, Katherine Noone, review of Most Dangerous, p. 88.

Washington Post, September 14, 2015, Abby McGanney Nolan, review of Most Dangerous.

ONLINE

Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, http://www.rabbiharvey.com (August 24, 2009).

American Library Association, http://www.ala.org/ (January 27, 2020), article about author.

Literary Hoots, http://www.literaryhoots.com/ (October 16, 2015), review of Most Dangerous.

National Book Foundation, http://www.nationalbook.org/ (January 2, 2015), "2012 National Book Award Finalist, Young People's Literature."

New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/ (February 26, 2014), Sarah Harrison Smith, review of The Port Chicago 50.

Steve Sheinkin, http://www.stevesheinkin.com (March 23, 2020).

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000190212