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The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy Hardcover – December 14, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 7–10—Giblin includes considerable information about McCarthy's background and earlier career, but devotes most of the book to his election to the Senate and use of intimidation and smear tactics to gain enormous political power before his eventual public disgrace and early, alcohol-related death. The author provides limited background and context about the public fear of communism, but his main focus is on McCarthy's actions and the damage they did to innocent people and organizations. He includes extensive detail about McCarthy's campaigns and Senate hearings, which occasionally makes for dry reading. However, that problem is eclipsed by the weaknesses of the author's sources and his dated perspective on the McCarthy and early Cold War era. His most cited sources are biographies by Thomas Reeves (Stein & Day, 1982) and journalist Tom Wicker (Houghton, 2006), but he also repeatedly cites Wikipedia and the Columbia Encyclopedia. Although his source discussion mentions recent scholarship based upon declassified materials in the U.S. and the Soviet Union that documents Soviet espionage and penetration into the American government from the 1930s through the Cold War, he does not adequately take those discoveries into account. McCarthy's behavior and methods were inexcusable, but his crusade makes more sense when placed into the larger context of Cold War fears and the peril that those on the left, many admirers of the ideals of communism, faced when Americans began to view the Soviets as enemies and those who had associated with them as traitors. Excellent quality archival photos and political cartoons appear throughout. An additional title.—Mary Mueller, Rolla Junior High School, MO
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Timely and significant...If I were a high school teacher concentrating on the postwar era, I would devote a good part of my course to discussing this book for the cautionary tale it tells."--New York Times Book Review
"This lucid, authoritative portrait offers readers a compelling, real-life cautionary tale of blind ambition and the reckless pursuit of power. A tour de force."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Giblin's unmistakable research and passion for the subject add up to a comprehensive portrayal of a complex figure. Abundant source notes and further reading suggestions conclude this expansive undertaking."--Publishers Weekly
"Excellent quality archival photos and political cartoons appear throughout." --School Library Journal
Top customer reviews
The story begins with McCarthy's childhood and ends with his death, and all throughout he is as one driven. It's admirable early on when he's raising chickens or finishing 4 years of high school in less than 1 year as an adult, but then that drive is applied to a quest for power.
His story is a very sad one, of a man trying to find meaning in a quest for power and accolades, constantly scheming to turn circumstances to his advantage, never able to admit his error, and in the end, miserable and literally drinking himself to death when the tide turns against him. It's also a very sad illustration of how the majority of people follow one crowd or another, blindly believing what they read in print, or what a politician says, assuming it must be true. And, it's very sad to see yet another illustration of how many people are willing to overthrow the Constitution or common decency or any other principles, because they think the end justifies the means.
This is an outstanding work on Senator McCarthy, also providing many details about Communism, foreign relations between the U.S. and other countries of the day, etc, with a bibliography and source notes at the end. There are a lot of black-and-white photographs, but mainly just still shots of various people referenced. This book is totally appropriate for the high school age group. The book states that it's for ages 12 and up, but it will not be appreciated as it deserves by most 12 and 13-year-olds. If the Amazon listing still states ages 9-12, this is a mistake and is not what the publisher claims.
I will definitely keep this book and plan to use it in homeschooling in a few years when my children are a bit older. Good history, but also valuable in addressing issues of character, ethics, etc.
The Amazon page must be mistaken - it has the recommended ages for kids between 9-12. Impossible - I can't imagine there are more than 20 kids in all of the USA who would read a 300 page book on Joe McCarthy. Also, many parents would be uncomfortable with
- The passage that states that (paraphrased) "Joe liked to date many women but he never tried to form an emotional bond with them."
- Lot's of talk about the people who worked with Joe and if they were homosexual
- Talk of alcoholism
Now that we have established that this may not be the best night-time story for your tween. I will say that it would be excellent for your high schooler.James Giblin does an excellent job of showing the dangers of characters like McCarthy. Sure his treatment is a bit heavy-handed.... but it needed to be. Joe McCarthy used lies and deceit to become a demagogue adn ruined the lives of many americans.
James Giblin shows that the damage inflicted by McCarthy is still being felt today. McCarthy proved that you could become elected and rise to power by instilling fear instead of hope in the voting public.
Finally, "The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy" serves as a nice survey of the times. Giblin introduces his readers to many of the people and events that shaped the 1940's and 1950's.
Final Verdict - recommended for everyone 15 and up. As an adult you may need to remind yourself that this is a book written for young adults - and while it may not be written to the intellectual level of Gordon Wood it is still, in my opinion, very worthwhile.
Most recent customer reviews
I'll admit that I was actually expecting a much more balanced treatment
of Joseph...Read more