NESFA Members' Reviews

Children of the Atom

by Wilmar Shiras

Red Jacket Press, [1953], ISBN 00-9748895-0-4

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

This is a facsimile reprint edition of the Shiras' 1953 fix-up novel of really exceptional children—the brilliant mutant offspring of parents caught in a nuclear industrial accident.

Peter Welles, a school psychiatrist, is asked by a teacher to talk to Timothy Paul, an apparently perfectly normal thirteen-year-old who nevertheless seems to her teacher's instinct different in some hard to pin down way. Welles gradually ferrets out the truth—that Timothy is an astoundingly bright child who has been taught, unknowingly but effectively, by his loving grandparents to pass for normal. As he discovers the extent of Timothy's exceptionalism—he's been writing and publishing under multiple false names, saving the money in a bank account opened by mail, and carrying on extensive correspondence with adults who never suspect his true age—Welles realizes that Timothy can't be the only one. Worried about this brilliant boy's long-term prospects without any intellectual equals to relate to when he's an adult, Welles helps him seek other orphans of the same accident, and slowly gathers them together in a school for what are accurately, if somewhat understatedly, called "gifted children." Their troubles aren't over, of course; in some ways, they're just beginning. Shiras manages to be both realistic and optimistic in describing the children's attempts to both develop their potential and adapt to society, and this is a good and still satisfying book.


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