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Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America

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Acclaimed author Gail Jarrow explores in riveting detail the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938, in this nonfiction title. Jarrow highlights the artists behind the broadcast, the broadcast itself, the aftermath, and the repercussions which remain relevant today. On the night of October 30, 1938, thousands of Americans panicked when they believed that Martian Acclaimed author Gail Jarrow explores in riveting detail the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938, in this nonfiction title. Jarrow highlights the artists behind the broadcast, the broadcast itself, the aftermath, and the repercussions which remain relevant today. On the night of October 30, 1938, thousands of Americans panicked when they believed that Martians had invaded Earth. What appeared to be breaking news about an alien invasion was, in fact, a radio drama based on H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre players. Some listeners became angry once they realized they had been tricked, and the reaction to the broadcast sparked a national discussion about fake news, propaganda, and the role of radio. Archival photographs and images, as well as an author’s note, timeline, bibliography, and index round out this stellar nonfiction title.


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Acclaimed author Gail Jarrow explores in riveting detail the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938, in this nonfiction title. Jarrow highlights the artists behind the broadcast, the broadcast itself, the aftermath, and the repercussions which remain relevant today. On the night of October 30, 1938, thousands of Americans panicked when they believed that Martian Acclaimed author Gail Jarrow explores in riveting detail the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938, in this nonfiction title. Jarrow highlights the artists behind the broadcast, the broadcast itself, the aftermath, and the repercussions which remain relevant today. On the night of October 30, 1938, thousands of Americans panicked when they believed that Martians had invaded Earth. What appeared to be breaking news about an alien invasion was, in fact, a radio drama based on H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre players. Some listeners became angry once they realized they had been tricked, and the reaction to the broadcast sparked a national discussion about fake news, propaganda, and the role of radio. Archival photographs and images, as well as an author’s note, timeline, bibliography, and index round out this stellar nonfiction title.

30 review for Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Abby Johnson

    Gail Jarrow, I love you so. This is a fantastic and timely account of the 1938 radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds that sparked panic in many listeners. Hand this to anyone concerned about “fake news” or anyone who rolls their eyes upon hearing that phrase.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lilyn G. | Sci-Fi & Scary

    Review to come soon. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publicity company for review consideration

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    Copy provided by the publisher In these days of "fake news", this overview of the 1930s radio scene and the specific event of the broadcast of The War of the Worlds is both timely and fascinating. Starting with the adaptation of the H.G. Wells' novel to radio and details of what it took to put this into production and ending with the lawsuits filed and the impact this had on laws regarding radio, it covers everything that is essential to know about this pivotal media event. Readers today are unli Copy provided by the publisher In these days of "fake news", this overview of the 1930s radio scene and the specific event of the broadcast of The War of the Worlds is both timely and fascinating. Starting with the adaptation of the H.G. Wells' novel to radio and details of what it took to put this into production and ending with the lawsuits filed and the impact this had on laws regarding radio, it covers everything that is essential to know about this pivotal media event. Readers today are unlikely to know anything about Orson Welles or even radio entertainment, so Jarrow does a good job at setting the scene, describing the role of radio in the average US home, the types of programs that were common at the time, and also details about how phones worked and how people got information. There was also extensive background about Welles' career and Well's novel. There are lots of period photographs that are extremely helpful in explaining the story. For example, when letters were written about the program to the network, people typed them. There is a nice photograph of a woman with a typewriter, which young readers will find most instructive. I know, because I keep a typewriter at my desk in the library, and many of my students are not quite sure what it is! The inclusion of some of the artwork from an illustrated 1906 version of War of the Worlds. Supplementary material at the back includes footnotes, an instructive author's note, and a fantastic bibliography broken down into different topics. Jarrow's documentation of her research should be held as an example to authors writing a young adult nonfiction book; not all of them are this complete, and I can't imagine that a more comprehensive yet manageable tome on this topic. My daughter's fourth grade science teacher (at a math and science magnet school) had an entire unit on this event. He worked in math and science concepts, had them listen to clips of the broadcast as well as watch a movie version, and my daughter really enjoyed it! Unfortunately, he retired after teaching her, or I would definitely buy a copy of this for him!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    So interesting and timely! Middle grade nonfiction always feels like it's written riiiiiiiiight at the right level for me to understand.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kyra Nay

    In an age where false, misleading, and fear-mongering information spreads like wildfire over social media networks, often garnering more clicks, likes, and shares than trustworthy or verified information, the story of the infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast seems eerily familiar. I really enjoyed two of Jarrow’s previous books – Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America and Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary – so I was excited to dive into this one and I was not disappointed. The fi In an age where false, misleading, and fear-mongering information spreads like wildfire over social media networks, often garnering more clicks, likes, and shares than trustworthy or verified information, the story of the infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast seems eerily familiar. I really enjoyed two of Jarrow’s previous books – Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America and Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary – so I was excited to dive into this one and I was not disappointed. The first chapter takes readers back in time, as people were tuning into a Sunday night radio broadcast, and provides important context about the mood of the country – exhausted by the nearly decade-long Great Depression, warily watching the ominous moves from an aggressive Germany in Europe, and recovering from an unexpected and devastating hurricane that had hit the East Coast only a few weeks earlier. Subsequent chapters introduce major players – Orson Welles, director and star, John Houseman, producer, Howard Koch, the script writer, and his assistant Anne Froelick, and H.G. Wells, the author of the original novel. In the week before the show aired, most of the cast and crew fully expected that the show would be a disaster – the writers had multiple 15-hour days, trying to update the script into the American setting that Welles wanted, dress rehearsals went poorly, and many expected that audiences would find the story boring. Lime yellow pages mark the transition as Jarrow describes the show in detail, so that readers feel like they’re listening to the show. Jarrow manages to keep the tension and drama high; never does the description become dry or dull. She also includes helpful commentary – noting that the time announced on the show doesn’t match the actual time, for example –delineated by bold and italicized text. The second half of the book explores the fall-out from the broadcast – while some people were genuinely frightened and believed Martians were invading, reports of panic were exaggerated by the media, with sensational headlines like “MILLIONS OF PEOPLE understood the broadcast to be REAL.” Newspaper editorials opined about the dangers of radio (their competition, conveniently), lambasted CBS for mixing “news and fiction,” and worried that the U.S. looked gullible, weak, and foolish as war brewed in Europe. CBS and FCC received hundreds of letters, postcards and telegrams (of the 600 the FCC received, about 60% were critical) and Senator Herring of Iowa pushed for a bill that would require radio programs to be approved by the FCC (it did not pass, thankfully). The final chapter explores modern parallels, like when the AP suffered a Twitter hack in 2013 and tweeted that President Obama had been injured in explosions at the White House. Although the AP removed the tweet and exposed the hack with 10 minutes, the stock market had dropped dramatically. The market recovered, but it showed the weaknesses in the system. Lengthy and visually appealing backmatter includes a timeline, source notes, a selected bibliography, an index, and an especially great section called “More to Explore” with suggested books, films, websites, and podcasts about hoaxes, Orson Welles, 1930s radio, Mars and more. Overall, this book checked a lot of Sibert boxes – excellent organization, appealing subject matter, engaging visuals. It’s on the upper end of the Sibert spectrum, so it may also get noticed by the YALSA Award for Excellence in Non-Fiction. October 30, 2018 will mark the 80th anniversary of the broadcast. It’s great non-fiction to promote this fall – slightly spooky, just the right thing for this time of year.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    It seems, looking back into the dim recesses of the past, that a language arts teacher played the recording of the Orson Welles radio broadcast for us in class at some point. If you haven't heard it yet, you can find it online in a variety of places from YouTube to Audible. But what Gail Jarrow does in this book is trace the path of Welles to the Mercury Theater's time on air and their performance of The War of the Worlds. An excellent timeline in the back matter covers all the major steps along It seems, looking back into the dim recesses of the past, that a language arts teacher played the recording of the Orson Welles radio broadcast for us in class at some point. If you haven't heard it yet, you can find it online in a variety of places from YouTube to Audible. But what Gail Jarrow does in this book is trace the path of Welles to the Mercury Theater's time on air and their performance of The War of the Worlds. An excellent timeline in the back matter covers all the major steps along the way. The narrative gives details of the major players in the adaptation and performance, the social setting (the Great Depression, the American fascination with radio, and fears based on Hitler's rise in Europe), and the reaction and aftermath of the broadcast. Images show the performers, families listening to their radios, headlines, excerpts from letters and telegrams sent in by listeners, and even a photo of the commemorative plaque from Grovers Mill. Illustrations from a 1906 French version of the H.G. Wells book are used to great effect as the radio broadcast is described. Back matter has a lot to offer for readers who have their interest piqued. There is a section offering websites, DVDs, and books on the broadcast, Welles, Mars, other famous hoaxes, and related fiction. An author's note explains the process Jarrow used to research and write this account. Source notes, a selected biography, picture credits, and an index round out the helpful material. In this day of fake news and the need for information users to practice discernment and a healthy level of skepticism, this is an amazing example from American history on what happens when people blindly accept media at face value. This book would be a solid way to launch a unit on vetting information sources and hoaxes in general. It is also a great gift for sci-fi fans or anyone interested in broadcasting and media careers. I read a review copy provided by the publisher.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    I read this flying home from the ALA conference, the new hard copy clutched protectively through all the bounces, take-offs and landings and it took me right into the 1938 broadcast that set the world talking. This book couldn't be more timely as it depicts the original fake news event although it was never meant to deceive, merely to entertain as a Mischief Night tale. Jarrow tells this enlightening and oh-so-relevant story by taking the readers through the creation, production development and a I read this flying home from the ALA conference, the new hard copy clutched protectively through all the bounces, take-offs and landings and it took me right into the 1938 broadcast that set the world talking. This book couldn't be more timely as it depicts the original fake news event although it was never meant to deceive, merely to entertain as a Mischief Night tale. Jarrow tells this enlightening and oh-so-relevant story by taking the readers through the creation, production development and actual broadcast of the War of the Worlds adaptation while providing the simultaneous account of what was happening outside the studio as listeners encountered and often misunderstood the newscast style production. How much panic actually occurred and how people reacted during and after the program and how the press reported it is a fascinating part of the story. The connections to our current time are so obvious that young readers will not be thinking about anything but this book for weeks after they read it. The book itself is immensely immersive and fascinating with outstanding archival photographs and ephemera to further expand the reading experience. Two of my favorite sections are experts of letters written to CBS and the FCC after the broadcast by both supporters of the show and outraged listeners. Exemplary back matter includes a Timeline, Source Notes, an Author's Note, bibliography and a section called More to Explore that I am itching to spend time checking out. This gem of a book has endless uses in the classroom and can lead to extensive discussion. Nonfiction at its best.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarai

    This book purports to be about the 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, which caused panic among many as they thought it was really happening. It's really about fake news. But it also covers many other topics, including WWII, science, hoaxes, information about the people involved in creating the broadcast, censorship and government regulations, and Halloween. It includes links to listen to the broadcast, The Museum of Hoaxes, and NASA. The book was very interesting and informative. I plan t This book purports to be about the 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, which caused panic among many as they thought it was really happening. It's really about fake news. But it also covers many other topics, including WWII, science, hoaxes, information about the people involved in creating the broadcast, censorship and government regulations, and Halloween. It includes links to listen to the broadcast, The Museum of Hoaxes, and NASA. The book was very interesting and informative. I plan to take it on school visits. Book description: On the night of October 30, 1938, thousands of Americans panicked when they believed that Martians had invaded Earth. What appeared to be breaking news about an alien invasion was in fact a radio drama based on H. G. Wells's War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre players. Some listeners became angry once they realized they had been tricked, and the reaction to the broadcast sparked a national discussion about fake news, propaganda, and the role of radio. In this compelling nonfiction chapter book, Gail Jarrow explores the production of the broadcast, the aftermath, and the concept of fake news in the media.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alexa Hamilton

    I love Gail Jarrow's books. I've always been fascinated with the War of Worlds broadcast and the reaction it provoked at the time. But unfortunately, you have to be fascinated with this broadcast to understand the book the way it's set up--or at least you have to know that the invasion that is set up in the beginning is not real. Because otherwise, it doesn't make sense that we go and take an in-depth look at performers and radio producers. What does that have to do with a real invasion of Ameri I love Gail Jarrow's books. I've always been fascinated with the War of Worlds broadcast and the reaction it provoked at the time. But unfortunately, you have to be fascinated with this broadcast to understand the book the way it's set up--or at least you have to know that the invasion that is set up in the beginning is not real. Because otherwise, it doesn't make sense that we go and take an in-depth look at performers and radio producers. What does that have to do with a real invasion of America? If you skip Chapter One, this book improves quite a bit! I loved reading the notes from people after the broadcast, learning what happened when this broadcast was done at other times in other countries and how the studies done at the time about reactions were biased. There are some really great parts to this book, I just wish it gave a better introduction for people who didn't come in knowing the backstory.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    Just a fantastic accounting of the War of the Worlds broadcast in October 1938 and its consequences. Jarrow has thoroughly researched her topic and includes information on all the clues that should have made it clear to listeners that this was not a real event - if they were paying attention. I enjoyed all the related information about events after the broadcast, including the work of the FCC and the life stories of those involved. Primary sources were used to reveal the varied reactions to the Just a fantastic accounting of the War of the Worlds broadcast in October 1938 and its consequences. Jarrow has thoroughly researched her topic and includes information on all the clues that should have made it clear to listeners that this was not a real event - if they were paying attention. I enjoyed all the related information about events after the broadcast, including the work of the FCC and the life stories of those involved. Primary sources were used to reveal the varied reactions to the broadcast. The excerpts from letters sent in to the broadcasting corporation after the event enlivened her coverage. As one man said with satisfaction regarding the broadcast, I thought the book about it all was a HUMDINGER!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    A very topical discussion of what we would now call fake news back in the days of radio. Orson Welles and his team didn't set out to cause such a reaction, they were just trying to produce an exciting radio drama and weren't even convinced it would be very good at that. Of course, we've heard stories that masses of people were freaked out, thinking that we really were being invaded by Martians (and some were), but this points out that the reports of wide-spread panicking are themselves sensation A very topical discussion of what we would now call fake news back in the days of radio. Orson Welles and his team didn't set out to cause such a reaction, they were just trying to produce an exciting radio drama and weren't even convinced it would be very good at that. Of course, we've heard stories that masses of people were freaked out, thinking that we really were being invaded by Martians (and some were), but this points out that the reports of wide-spread panicking are themselves sensationalistic exaggerations. What is the difference between fake news and propaganda?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Excellent. In light of the daily barrage of Tweets coming out of the White House, this book talks about REAL "fake news", specifically about the myth of mass-hysteria after listening to the broadcast of the War of the World by Orson Wells, et al. I learned a lot and enjoyed reading this YA nonfiction book. I recommend it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I raced through the account of creating and broadcasting the War of the Worlds but stalled a bit on the fallout. Still, this is very very well done YA NF. The photographs and illustrations are well chosen and perfectly placed. The relevance to our times carefully drawn and it’s a great angle from which to present the late 1930s. I’m curious to see if my students will enjoy it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joan Marie

    Gail Jarrow does a wonderful job setting the stage, incorporating interesting facts and quotes, using historical photos and illustrations, conducting extensive research, and including a wealth of back matter. No surprise, this thrilling title received five star reviews and was published by Calkins Creek with Carolyn Yoder as editor. Kudos to the team!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Eckert

    A fantastic nonfiction middle grade book about the War of the Worlds radio broadcast in 1938 that caused some panic (but probably not as much as you thought). The author does a great job connecting the events back then to our interactions with media today. You should definitely read this with your kids/students.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

    Well now I want to listen to the radio play!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karen Arendt

    Fascinating. A great book to share when introducing fake news.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shella

    What a great layout and research. I want a class set- what a timely topic!! All your books a phenomenal!!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michele Knott

    Fascinating nonfiction that explores being critical when hearing/seeing what is believed to be the truth. Interesting how an event in our history has relevancy to today.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joy Bratton

    I enjoy reading nonfiction from this author. Even though the target age range is 10-14, I have recommended her books to adults. I enjoy the pictures, the extensive research, and her talent for making nonfiction read like fiction.

  21. 5 out of 5

    CCPL Buzz

    KN

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scott Fillner

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Yourdon

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elena

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Shannon

  27. 5 out of 5

    Leonard Kim

  28. 5 out of 5

    PWRL

    SM

  29. 5 out of 5

    Meg

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maryann

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