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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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Gail Jarrow explores the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938. She 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 a Gail Jarrow explores the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938. She 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’ 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.


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Gail Jarrow explores the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938. She 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 a Gail Jarrow explores the famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938. She 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’ 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.

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

    Sci-Fi & Scary

    I have been fascinated by the War of the Worlds broadcast for what feels like ages. I had always sort of laughed at the idea that people could get so frightened from a radio broadcast. It couldn’t have been that good, could have it? Then a few years back, I actually listened to the broadcast for the first time. I was amazed. It was so well done that even decades later, it’s clear how people could have gotten freaked out. The drama is incredibly well done! Of course, if you listen through the who I have been fascinated by the War of the Worlds broadcast for what feels like ages. I had always sort of laughed at the idea that people could get so frightened from a radio broadcast. It couldn’t have been that good, could have it? Then a few years back, I actually listened to the broadcast for the first time. I was amazed. It was so well done that even decades later, it’s clear how people could have gotten freaked out. The drama is incredibly well done! Of course, if you listen through the whole broadcast, it is obvious that it’s just a play, but… things were different then. A lot more tense. That is one of the strengths of ‘Spooked!’ It does a great job of making you understand exactly how Orson Welles’ broadcast could have freaked so many people out back then. It laid out the techniques he used, like the breaking news bulletins, the imitation of the President, etc. But it also dispels many of the myths about the impact the broadcast had. People are prone to exaggeration as it is, and sadly, actual fake news has been around for quite a while. ‘Spooked!’ is a very interesting read for both younger readers and adults. I wouldn’t recommend it for under 12 or so because it is a surprisingly dense book that isn’t really the “read in one sitting” type. The layout was very nice, though. I liked how Jarrow guides readers from the then to the now. The talk about viral hoaxes, the need to reason and seek verification, etc, are all very relevant to today. Definitely worth checking out. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publicity company for review consideration

  2. 5 out of 5

    Manybooks

    Would I have been "spooked" by the 1938 War of the Worlds radio play broadcast? Now we discussed said radio play in 1985 in grade twelve Social Studies, when we were covering 20th century history, including WWI and WWII, and when the majority of us scoffed and found it ridiculous and sadly hilarious that so many Americans seemingly panicked and thought that the earth was being invaded by Martians, our teacher made us listen to parts of said broadcast in class. And while of course we had the hind Would I have been "spooked" by the 1938 War of the Worlds radio play broadcast? Now we discussed said radio play in 1985 in grade twelve Social Studies, when we were covering 20th century history, including WWI and WWII, and when the majority of us scoffed and found it ridiculous and sadly hilarious that so many Americans seemingly panicked and thought that the earth was being invaded by Martians, our teacher made us listen to parts of said broadcast in class. And while of course we had the hindsight of knowing that this was indeed just a radio play and not reality, when we listened to it, yes, it totally did sound authentic and considering that the War of the Worlds radio play was aired in 1938 (with WWII just around the corner and the Nazis flexing their muscles), my classmates and I did kind of both understand the fear and confusion many people, many listeners seem to have felt and also just how amazing and true to life feeling Orson Welles' broadcast really was. However, after now having read Gail Jarrow's Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America, it must be said that the author really does make it more than abundantly clear that especially the media greatly exaggerated its claims of mass panic and hysteria and that in fact and in reality, the majority of Americans absolutely seem to have realised and understood that there was not an alien invasion of Martians happening (that the "reports" on the radio were a dramatisation for entertainment) and that therefore, the entire mass panic and widespread fear scenario could if not should in fact be seen as a 1930s incarnation of exaggerated "fake" news, as while there were certainly individuals believing that the earth, that the United States was being invaded by hostile Martians, the estimation that there was a massive and all encompassing panic amongst the American population as a whole was both exaggerated and seemingly deliberately stoked by the newspapers. A highly recommended and much satisfying reading experience Gail Jarrow's Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America has been for me (with a rather densely wordy narrative that I would probably not recommend to and for readers younger than eleven or twelve, and no, not at all due to the content presented, but simply because the author's text is pretty involved and makes use of some rather sophisticated vocabulary choices), with the supplemental information at the back, including the detailed source information and extensive bibliographies being much appreciated (like the icing on an already superb cake for me and yes, making Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the World Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America most definitely into a solid five star book).

  3. 4 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    The more things change, the more they stay the same... I first heard of this radio production in elementary school, in one of those reading compilations, and my general impression was of mass hysteria and gullibility - for years. I read Getting It Wrong a few years ago, in which the author posits that this narrative was a result of sensationalist newspapers trying to limit an upstart new media; I found that terribly plausible and fascinating, but I largely forgot it: that book was only one source The more things change, the more they stay the same... I first heard of this radio production in elementary school, in one of those reading compilations, and my general impression was of mass hysteria and gullibility - for years. I read Getting It Wrong a few years ago, in which the author posits that this narrative was a result of sensationalist newspapers trying to limit an upstart new media; I found that terribly plausible and fascinating, but I largely forgot it: that book was only one source, after all, and I had years of vague historical impressions counting against it. And then I read this book, which is really, really good. I think Jarrow outlines three things that contributed to the "gullible Americans" narrative. (Or maybe it's four: the show, in contrast to Orson Welles's expectations, was apparently fabulous and convincing.) 1. Sensationalist headlines sell newspapers, and newspapers on strict schedules don't look too closely at stories. (That woman who lied about her broken arm because she wanted her picture in the paper? The more things change...) 2. Newspapers were worried about that young new media form directly competing with them! 3. A Princeton study which I'd never heard of before, which surveyed 135 people, deliberately including 107 people who admitted beforehand that they'd been frightened by the show, assuring the public that their sample was representative and their results scientific. (They weren't.) I also did not know that "The War of the Worlds" was written in program listings, or that it was announced at the start of the show, before and after the break, or to close the show. This is all incredibly fascinating. Interestingly, I found the information parceled out confusingly, maybe to avoid taking sides? It's all there, though, and I like how Jarrow keeps the contemporary implications in mind while staying clearly in the historical nonfiction camp. But my favorite parts are the excerpts she prints of letters sent to CBS and the FCC. It's amazing stuff. In fact, I'm tempted to track down these records and read them in full myself. Here's a taste: "Perhaps if you'd put on your little play fifty years ago it would have been a joke but the way science has progressed in that time, surely nothing is impossible." "This only goes to prove... that the intelligent people were listening to a dummy, and all the dummies were listening to you." "We trust that the air was released from your auto tires and your windows thoroughly soaped." "Don't people THINK anymore? My God, what the propagandists of the next war can do!" "The American public got a slight taste of the fear which overshadows the people of Europe constantly." "It shakes one's faith in democracy to think that such hysteria and panic can affect people who are supposed to vote intelligently next week." "The infernal machines passed within a few blocks from my house... and I didn't think to step outside to see them. After New York was destroyed we all went to bed." AMAZING stuff. The more things change... PS: I need to find out more about Dorothy Thompson. PPS: I'm still befuddled by the ventriloquism radio show.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brandy Painter

    4. 5 stars An excellent look at a famous incident that breaks down what was true and what has become myth. Jarrow tells the story well, beginning with the story of the broadcast itself. Using just enough information to build suspense and a perfect use of Houseman's ironic quotes, Jarrow manages to keep the story moving at a fast clip. I loved how everything was brought together in the end too as the mythos built up around the prank is unpacked. It helps a reader's perception of our own time too t 4. 5 stars An excellent look at a famous incident that breaks down what was true and what has become myth. Jarrow tells the story well, beginning with the story of the broadcast itself. Using just enough information to build suspense and a perfect use of Houseman's ironic quotes, Jarrow manages to keep the story moving at a fast clip. I loved how everything was brought together in the end too as the mythos built up around the prank is unpacked. It helps a reader's perception of our own time too to see the well compiled quotes from the array of letters sent to the radio show, all about the size of a modern day tweet. All around well done non-fiction.

  6. 4 out of 5

    John Yingling

    This was a fun, enlightening, interesting read. The author does an admirable job in telling the story behind the radio broadcast, particularly regarding the contributions of Orson Welles and John Houseman. She discusses H.G. Wells' book and puts all of this in the context of the world in 1938, focusing on society, the world situation and people's fears and paranoia. And in this era of "fake news", this story is more relevant than ever. I also liked the many illustrations throughout the book as w This was a fun, enlightening, interesting read. The author does an admirable job in telling the story behind the radio broadcast, particularly regarding the contributions of Orson Welles and John Houseman. She discusses H.G. Wells' book and puts all of this in the context of the world in 1938, focusing on society, the world situation and people's fears and paranoia. And in this era of "fake news", this story is more relevant than ever. I also liked the many illustrations throughout the book as well as the comments from people who heard the broadcast, and the subsequent rumors that abounded afterwards. Even though this is considered juvenile literature, I highly recommend it to adults too.

  7. 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!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens

    Jarrow sets the stage perfectly in this detailed, illuminating exploration of why ordinary Americans panicked when they heard a broadcast of New Jersey being invaded by Martians on Oct. 30, 1938. This was my official read for Halloween 2018.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    The War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30, 1938 was the ultimate in fake news. Orson Welles and John Houseman created a radio program that fooled the country into believing martians had landed in New Jersey. Gail Jarrow does a fantastic job setting up this pivotal moment in history. She explains the importance of radio to an audience who probably never listen to the radio. She sets up the people involved by describing not only Welles and Houseman and their radio programs but also the origina The War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30, 1938 was the ultimate in fake news. Orson Welles and John Houseman created a radio program that fooled the country into believing martians had landed in New Jersey. Gail Jarrow does a fantastic job setting up this pivotal moment in history. She explains the importance of radio to an audience who probably never listen to the radio. She sets up the people involved by describing not only Welles and Houseman and their radio programs but also the original novel by H.G. Wells. She explains how Welles and Houseman thought this was going to be a boring show and worked to jazz it up. They came up with the idea of news bulletins interrupting a regular radio program and reports from the field. They had no idea the reaction their show was having amongst the listening public. Where Jarrow excels is showing the mixed reactions from the public. She includes actual reactions and letters from people of the time. Many were fooled, but probably not as many as was originally reported. Some people heard the intro to the program and realized it was a story. Others figured it out because of the leaps in time in the program. Others went to the scenes and realized nothing was going on. But many people panicked and fled the cities or flooded their local police and radio stations with calls. When the program was revealed to be untrue, many people were irate.  Even though this story took place nearly 100 years ago it still seems relevant in today's atmosphere of fake news. It is amazing how easy it is to be fooled by news that seems real. Many are not taught to question or investigate today and take what they read online at face value. It is frightening. 

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    While I have heard about the radio broadcast causing some to panic, I admit to not knowing many details about the event. I really enjoyed reading about how the radio broadcast was prepared, the events of the broadcast, the "panic" (though it wasn't as widespread as I'd believed) and the results of the radio broadcast. I found the last chapter about hoaxes especially interesting. While I have heard about the radio broadcast causing some to panic, I admit to not knowing many details about the event. I really enjoyed reading about how the radio broadcast was prepared, the events of the broadcast, the "panic" (though it wasn't as widespread as I'd believed) and the results of the radio broadcast. I found the last chapter about hoaxes especially interesting.

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

  12. 5 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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josephine Sorrell

    As I read this I wondered how anyone was fooled by this but then it dawned on me, we live in an age of alternative facts and fake news. We read it and are quick to share before checking the authenticity of the story. The story of the infamous 1938 radio broadcast that convinced thousands of Americans a real-time Martian invasion of Earth was occurring could not be timelier. Orson Welles and his collaborators were simply brilliant. I wonder how they would use their talents in the 21st century. In As I read this I wondered how anyone was fooled by this but then it dawned on me, we live in an age of alternative facts and fake news. We read it and are quick to share before checking the authenticity of the story. The story of the infamous 1938 radio broadcast that convinced thousands of Americans a real-time Martian invasion of Earth was occurring could not be timelier. Orson Welles and his collaborators were simply brilliant. I wonder how they would use their talents in the 21st century. In an entertaining detailed narrative of nonfiction, I was riveted by this account of which I was just familiar. Jarrow chronicles how a radio drama based on H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, performed by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre players was broadcast on the night before Halloween. Even though it was stated four times, this is a play, the broadcast sent thousands of listeners who believed they were hearing breaking news about an alien invasion into a panic. Researchers later found that fewer than one-third of the frightened listeners understood the reports to be about an alien attack. Many assumed the reports were about either a German invasion or a natural catastrophe. None listened long enough to hear one of four announcements made during the broadcast that it was a dramatization. After the play concluded, Welles and his producing partner, John Houseman, were shocked to learn about the reaction to their program. They thought their play would come off as boring. The broadcast sparked a national discussions about propaganda, and the role of radio. Members of Congress proposed more government regulation of the medium. There is good discussion here as the author connects history to current events by comparing the phenomenon to contemporary fake-news controversies and ongoing freedom-of-press debates. The text is complemented with archival photos of the broadcast and illustrated scenes from Wells’ original story. In the author’s note, Jarrow says... The scenes in the book are based on primary sources and I have not embellished anecdotes or invented dialogue. I didn’t need to, the eyewitness accounts of people who lived it were fascinating enough. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Spooked! is a 2019 Robert F. Sibert Informational Award honor book. Gail Jarrow shares the compelling story of the 1938 radio broadcast that shook the nation to its core. On October 30, 1938, in the wake of the Great Depression and Hitler’s rise to power, Orson Welles and his team at the Mercury Theatre aired their broadcast adaptation of H.G. Well’s novel The War of the Worlds on CBS’s radio network. In an effort to engage their radio audience, Welles’ team had decided to develop the story’s dr Spooked! is a 2019 Robert F. Sibert Informational Award honor book. Gail Jarrow shares the compelling story of the 1938 radio broadcast that shook the nation to its core. On October 30, 1938, in the wake of the Great Depression and Hitler’s rise to power, Orson Welles and his team at the Mercury Theatre aired their broadcast adaptation of H.G. Well’s novel The War of the Worlds on CBS’s radio network. In an effort to engage their radio audience, Welles’ team had decided to develop the story’s dramatic plot of an alien invasion using mock news bulletins. While some listeners applauded CBS for their ingenuity and creativity, many listeners found these new bulletins to be all too real. In fact, as newspaper headlines shared the next day, “RADIO DRAMA TERRORIZES THOUSANDS” (pg. 75). Despite the broadcast’s numerous hints to its fictional nature, listeners were so quick to believe and to panic. This shocking turn of events reminds readers that fear can be a master manipulator. Jarrow’s interpretive informational book thoroughly investigates this epic scare, sharing details of the broadcast’s creation, airing, and aftermath. Readers will learn about the backgrounds of Welles and Houseman (and more), the political landscape in 1938, and the varied reactions of the public in the days following the broadcast. Spooked! truly reads like an informational text with chapters, headings/subheadings, photographs, captions, primary source documents, a glossary, a timeline, and source notes included. This book would be a great read for third or fourth-grade students who are becoming familiar with these expository text patterns and structures. Additionally, middle school readers can study the historical backdrop of the broadcast and infer what might have made Americans so susceptible and gullible to this “invasion.” Teachers can also engage students in discussions on fake news and censorship in both 1938 and contemporary society. Lastly, this book would be an awesome companion piece to the Twilight Zone teleplay "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street," which I read and watch with my seventh graders.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*

    Spooked! : How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow 139 pages. NON FICTION Calkins Creek 2018 $18.95 Content: G. BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE On October 30, 1938 Orson Welles' Mercury Theater presented a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells novel the War of the Worlds. Setting it in the real town of Grovers Mill New Jersey, and presenting the action through realistic sounding news broadcasts caused people to beli Spooked! : How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow 139 pages. NON FICTION Calkins Creek 2018 $18.95 Content: G. BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE On October 30, 1938 Orson Welles' Mercury Theater presented a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells novel the War of the Worlds. Setting it in the real town of Grovers Mill New Jersey, and presenting the action through realistic sounding news broadcasts caused people to believe the reports were real and danger was imminent. But the story of wide spread panic doesn't end there. The aftermath of the broadcast with a possible investigation by the FCC and threats of government controlled radio programming may ruin careers or make Welles and his associates celebrities. Jarrow tells the whole story of the broadcast, including the writer's challenges with shortening and updating a classic novel, the rehearsal process where the actors felt the show was going to be dumb and boring, and the production itself, choreographed by the masterful directing of young Orson Welles. Well documented with captioned photographs, side bar information and quotes, as well as an appendix including sites to listen to the broadcast itself, interviews and documentaries; sources to find out more about Mars, Hoaxes, and Old Time Radio; a bibliography and index. This is a great resource for a classroom learning about fake news, propaganda, or World War II. Lisa Librarian https://kissthebook.blogspot.com/2018...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ruthie Carlyle

    Summary: This is a non fiction book all about the history behind a radio broadcast that freaked out a bunch of people in the 1930s. This book is full of interesting facts about people and their history, authors and their history, and the history behind the entire broadcast. There was a broadcast reading of the War of the Worlds book, and it seemed so real that it sent people into panic. Although they said multiple times that it was no real, people tuned in late or missed that part of the broadca Summary: This is a non fiction book all about the history behind a radio broadcast that freaked out a bunch of people in the 1930s. This book is full of interesting facts about people and their history, authors and their history, and the history behind the entire broadcast. There was a broadcast reading of the War of the Worlds book, and it seemed so real that it sent people into panic. Although they said multiple times that it was no real, people tuned in late or missed that part of the broadcast, and because it was so well broadcasted, people were terrified. This book lays out the before, during, and after effects of the broadcast, and everything in between for its readers. Evaluation: I really enjoyed this book especially for a non fiction one. I think that it is a good book to have in the classroom because it has wonderful illustrations, pictures of real people, and great writing. Some of the content was a little bit graphic, but I feel like it is still appropriate for a 4th or 5th grade classroom. This is a great picture of what non fiction should look like in the classroom in order for students to be engaged and enjoy it. Teaching Idea: I would love to set a stage for students to were they can learn about different history topics and host their own radio broadcast to their classmates. I think this would also be a great partner exercise, or an exercise were they can present their written broadcast of the topic to the class, and then the class can take notes while they do that.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Becky B

    Jarrow relates how the War of the Worlds radio adaptation came about in 1938, how the radio crew thought it was going to bore the audience to tears, how the public responded to the broadcast (both positively and negatively), and then how the actual history of the reaction to this event itself became a piece of fake news and was misrepresented for many years. Jarrow relates history in a very engaging manor that is easily read and is loaded with primary sources. I was amazed to learn that the mass Jarrow relates how the War of the Worlds radio adaptation came about in 1938, how the radio crew thought it was going to bore the audience to tears, how the public responded to the broadcast (both positively and negatively), and then how the actual history of the reaction to this event itself became a piece of fake news and was misrepresented for many years. Jarrow relates history in a very engaging manor that is easily read and is loaded with primary sources. I was amazed to learn that the mass hysteria response to the broadcast had been so widely misreported. The whole history is a great lesson on really evaluating what you hear and checking your sources before you react (or repost...she does draw the correlation to today's false news for readers). It's fascinating history, a little step into the past when radio was the primary entertainment source, an intro to several historic entertainment personalities, and a cautionary tale about fake news that is extremely relevant for today's readers. Highly recommended for anyone. Notes on content: No language issues. No sexual content. Fake deaths in the radio broadcast by heat ray, and then an incident in South America during a War of the Worlds radio show is related that went very badly and resulted in some deaths during a riot.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erin Chmielowski

    Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America is an informational text about the terrifying broad cast of H.G. Wells's classic novel. The text begins with the history of the two men responsible for the broadcast. Each week John Housemen and Orsen Welles chose a book to read on the air and on October 30th, 1938 they read The War of the Worlds. The public listening to the broadcast believed that it was real and began to panic. The book then begins t Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America is an informational text about the terrifying broad cast of H.G. Wells's classic novel. The text begins with the history of the two men responsible for the broadcast. Each week John Housemen and Orsen Welles chose a book to read on the air and on October 30th, 1938 they read The War of the Worlds. The public listening to the broadcast believed that it was real and began to panic. The book then begins to discuss the aftermath and the chaos the broadcast created. This book would be a great addition to a middle school classroom. There are a lot of great sections on media, theater, history, and censorship. Background knowledge would be needed before using this book in instruction. Students will need to know the story and who Orsen Welles is before reading. The novel can be used to open the discussion on censorship and the power of media. Spooked! could be taught during the Halloween season and paired with any text where fear is a central theme, The Crucible comes to mind. Fear and censorship are the central themes of the text because it discusses what fear does to society as a whole. This text could also work well co-teaching with the history department. I found this book on Association for Library Services to Children website and it was a 2019 Sibert honor mention.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Meg Allen

    Summary: This book tells a story of how on edge people in the United States were during 1938. It tells of a fiction news broadcast that was taken serious. People wondered were the martians attacking or was it Germany. Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America shows the reactions and anger from the broadcast. We hear of the background of the broadcasters lives, who they are, what brought them to that night, and what happened after. Evaluation: Pe Summary: This book tells a story of how on edge people in the United States were during 1938. It tells of a fiction news broadcast that was taken serious. People wondered were the martians attacking or was it Germany. Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America shows the reactions and anger from the broadcast. We hear of the background of the broadcasters lives, who they are, what brought them to that night, and what happened after. Evaluation: Personally I did not like the book Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America. I found it to be rather long and hard to follow. The story starts off by telling about the time period, then introduces the people, then tells about the broadcast and reactions. I thought it was all over the place and was hard to keep track of what I was reading. Teaching Idea: This could be used when teaching history. This book shows just what it was like in 1938: how on edge people were, how much they struggled, and how important family was. This book is also a great way to teach about fake news. The reactions mentioned in the story come from all different angles. It tells how some people were scared, others were angry, and some did not believe it. This can be used to compare to a fake news article now and teach students the importance of fact checking.

  22. 5 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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Lawler

    Wonderfully researched title that explores the story and personalities behind the October 30, 1938 radio broadcast based on the HG Wells novel, "The War of the Worlds". The reader is taken through the creation of the radio based Mercury Theater by Orson Welles and John Houseman, to the selection of a science fiction title for the October 30, 1938 airing, and the rehearsals of what most on the scene considered a very boring show. Nothing could have been further from the truth! Even though it was Wonderfully researched title that explores the story and personalities behind the October 30, 1938 radio broadcast based on the HG Wells novel, "The War of the Worlds". The reader is taken through the creation of the radio based Mercury Theater by Orson Welles and John Houseman, to the selection of a science fiction title for the October 30, 1938 airing, and the rehearsals of what most on the scene considered a very boring show. Nothing could have been further from the truth! Even though it was announced during the preogram that the broadcast was an adaptation of a book, and not real news, cities and towns across the US were thrown into chaos by hysterical citizens. The aftermath produced a deluge of mail from those who thought the broadcast was wonderful, and others who thought radio should be censored to avoid this panic in the future. Journalist Dorothy Thompson, who was expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934 for her criticism of Hitler, said it best when she wrote Orson Welles had "shown the incredible stupidity , lack of nerve, and ignorance of thousands" and that the Mercury Theater receive an award for showing how European dictators like Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin used the radio to "incite hatreds, inflame masses,...abolish reason and maintain themselves in power."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Spooked! is about the 1938 radio teleplay broadcast by Orson Welles, which updated H.G. Wells' The War of the World by making it contemporary to the time (1938) and location (the US), using a mix of real places and fake names. For various reasons, some listeners did not realize that it was a play and thought that the Martians were invading. Spooked!, a middle grade nonfiction book, takes an in-depth look at the creation of the play, how listeners responded, why, and the aftermath. It's the type Spooked! is about the 1938 radio teleplay broadcast by Orson Welles, which updated H.G. Wells' The War of the World by making it contemporary to the time (1938) and location (the US), using a mix of real places and fake names. For various reasons, some listeners did not realize that it was a play and thought that the Martians were invading. Spooked!, a middle grade nonfiction book, takes an in-depth look at the creation of the play, how listeners responded, why, and the aftermath. It's the type of book that shows why I like middle grade and young adult fiction, and recommend it to others: it's in-depth but at the same time a quick read, and sometimes you want to read on a specific topic but don't want to do it in a 500 page book with small print. Being from New Jersey, I always enjoy books that are "my" local history. For various reasons, the teleplay set the initial invasion landing in Grover's Mill, NJ. So it's a topic I'm familiar with; and still learned so much from this book. Other good parts: links to the actual production for folks to listen to, an examination of why people believe something like this in the context of "fake news," and lots of primary documents.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ally Goddard

    Summary: This book follows Orson Welles and his radio broadcast of 1938. The broadcast, War of the Worlds, was orchestrated to be a drama about about aliens invading earth and be like a play over the radio. Welles did it so well, that listeners thought that it was truly happening. Thousands of Americans were in panic because they thought that they were under attack by aliens, when really it was just a dramatized radio broadcast. The book continues to follow what happens after the broadcast and g Summary: This book follows Orson Welles and his radio broadcast of 1938. The broadcast, War of the Worlds, was orchestrated to be a drama about about aliens invading earth and be like a play over the radio. Welles did it so well, that listeners thought that it was truly happening. Thousands of Americans were in panic because they thought that they were under attack by aliens, when really it was just a dramatized radio broadcast. The book continues to follow what happens after the broadcast and goes into fake news, propaganda, and the role that radio and media plays in the world. Critique: This book is a great look at how people were terrified during this time period, because Hitler was coming into power and we were just getting out of war. It kept my interest the entire time and made me want to keep reading to see what would happen next. Teach idea: This would be a great book to teach about how to fact check fake news or other sources. The people listening to the broadcast never thought to change the station to see if this was happening on other stations as well. After reading the book, you can have students create a fake newscast, website, radio broadcast about an event that doesn't actually happen. This would be a great enrichment activity.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

    Have you ever been watching a show and it was interrupted by a “breaking news” report? That’s exactly what happened on the night of October 30, 1938 when a radio program featuring orchestra music was interrupted by a special news bulletin: there have been gas explosions on Mars. The music continues only to be interrupted several more times with updates – interviews with astronomers, further explosions on Mars, and a possible meteorite hitting Earth near Grovers Mill, NJ. Eventually, the music pr Have you ever been watching a show and it was interrupted by a “breaking news” report? That’s exactly what happened on the night of October 30, 1938 when a radio program featuring orchestra music was interrupted by a special news bulletin: there have been gas explosions on Mars. The music continues only to be interrupted several more times with updates – interviews with astronomers, further explosions on Mars, and a possible meteorite hitting Earth near Grovers Mill, NJ. Eventually, the music program is completely forgotten, replaced by increasingly alarming reports as the meteorite is discovered to be an alien spacecraft. When the invaders become hostile, we hear the screams of people dying, transmissions are ended abruptly as news hosts on the scene are killed, and the airwaves are eventually overtaken by military communications as they organize their strike against the invaders. Their efforts prove futile – this was the end of the world. Of course, Martians never really invaded. What listeners were really hearing was a performance of The War of the Worlds as part of a weekly Mercury Theater radio program starring a young Orson Welles. Today, this broadcast remains well known because of the reported mass hysteria it caused in listeners around the country who believed they were hearing real news reports and the world was ending. In reality, the media greatly exaggerated the effects of the broadcast – only a small fraction of listeners thought they were hearing something real. And with the Hindenburg disaster fresh in people’s minds and WWII looming on the horizon, is it no wonder some listeners were quick to believe that invaders (and not just the extraterrestrial kind) had arrived? Gail Jarrow’s book Spooked takes us through all the details of the infamous broadcast, from the initial prep work that went into organizing the program, to a break down of the broadcast itself, and on through the aftermath of the broadcast when, fueled by the exaggerated news reports about mass panic around the country, a great debate arose about censorship and fake news. Questions were being asked like: has the trustworthiness of the radio been ruined? How could listeners determine if the news they were hearing was real or not? And should the FCC oversee all radio broadcasts to make sure something like this never happens again? Jarrow’s book is also loaded with photographs, including copies of complaints to the FCC about the broadcast. Prior to reading this book, all I knew about the broadcast was that the news about it causing mass panic was grossly exaggerated. I picked this book to read because I love old radio shows and one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Hey Arnold, once did an episode inspired by the broadcast of The War of the Worlds (it’s season 2, episode 7 - “Arnold’s Halloween” if you’re wondering), so I was intrigued to learn more about the broadcast and all the work that went into creating it. It’s easy to sit here more than 80 years later and laugh at how ridiculous it is that anyone would believe the broadcast was real, but actually listening to it rather than just reading about it gives you a whole new perspective. I listened to it on the Old Time Radio Player app (which gives you access to all the other Mercury Theater productions, as well) and, honestly, it was terrifying. And brilliant, too. Would I have been fooled? I don’t know… maybe?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sophie McKenny

    Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America is a non-fiction book about a radio broadcast that made people all over the United States think that aliens were invading. The book talks about all of the different events that lead up to the night that the broadcast happened and everything that took place afterwards. Although non-fiction books might not be every readers first choice, the author did a great job in making the book easy to read as well a Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America is a non-fiction book about a radio broadcast that made people all over the United States think that aliens were invading. The book talks about all of the different events that lead up to the night that the broadcast happened and everything that took place afterwards. Although non-fiction books might not be every readers first choice, the author did a great job in making the book easy to read as well as entertaining to look at. The book is full of pictures of the broadcast crew during the broadcast as well as pictures of people after the broadcast. It is full of stories of people that thought aliens were invading as well as letters and complaints sent into the radio station. The way the book is laid out the the information is presented shows the reader just how chaotic the situation was with the broadcast and how much it scared people. I had never heard about this broadcast in any of my classes before so the book did a great job at informing the reader about the event as well as give background knowledge about the time period and information about how it changed the country from then on. This is a book that I would use in my classroom to help learn that non-fiction books can be very interesting and fun to read as well as use it in history to make sure they know about this huge historical event.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    2019 William F. Sibert Honor book Using Primary source materials, the words people heard rather than the published scripts, memoirs, eyewitness accounts, correspondence, Gail Jarrow has recreated the events and reactions to the Oct 30, 1939 CBS broadcast of the radio play version of H. G. Wells’ The War of the World, that caused nationwide panic to the listeners who missed the announcements (4) that the program was a play and not real, and panicked and spread panic. This is a fascinating look at 2019 William F. Sibert Honor book Using Primary source materials, the words people heard rather than the published scripts, memoirs, eyewitness accounts, correspondence, Gail Jarrow has recreated the events and reactions to the Oct 30, 1939 CBS broadcast of the radio play version of H. G. Wells’ The War of the World, that caused nationwide panic to the listeners who missed the announcements (4) that the program was a play and not real, and panicked and spread panic. This is a fascinating look at John Houseman, Orson Wells, CBS and all the actors, musicians, production staff and technicians and at the events that unfolded on Trick Night, the night before Halloween 1939, when a radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds made Americans believe that Earth had been invaded by Martians. Illustrations are reproductions of photos, letters, memos, telegraphs, newspaper headlines and articles. Timelines, other hoaxes, author’s notes, source notes, a selected bibliography, index, and photo credits detail the extensive research don to create this book. The south states, “I have not embellished anecdotes or invented dialogue. I didn’t need to.”

  29. 4 out of 5

    Julianne Lefler

    Spooked! is a story about how a radio broadcast’s realistic performance caused chaos in parts of the country, ultimately revolutionizing how the world listened to the radio. This book is a great discussion for older readers. Spooked! can be picked apart addressing how the author created drama in the text, or asking why the author chose to approach the story the way she did. One of the best ways, in my opinion, to excite readers about a book discussion is to connect the story to themselves. Placi Spooked! is a story about how a radio broadcast’s realistic performance caused chaos in parts of the country, ultimately revolutionizing how the world listened to the radio. This book is a great discussion for older readers. Spooked! can be picked apart addressing how the author created drama in the text, or asking why the author chose to approach the story the way she did. One of the best ways, in my opinion, to excite readers about a book discussion is to connect the story to themselves. Placing the reader at the scene and asking how they think they would have reacted would engage the audience in a way that interests the reader about the book and its content, even if the book itself does not excite them. This book is text heavy, but Jarrow included images that break apart the text to hold the reader's focus, rather than continuing straight through. Nonfiction books are not always the most exciting for students, but the use of pictures adds to the appeal as does relating the discussion to the students personally. If done correctly, Spooked! could be an excellent book to teach students how to analyze and question books properly.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kyla

    I found this book on the Robert F. Sibert Medal and Honor website. This book was a 2019 Honor book. I read this book on Overdrive. The pictures in the text were sometimes hard to look at because they would be broken up from screen to screen. I would recommend looking at this book in a paper copy in the future. This book told the story of the night that Orson Wells broadcasts the radio version of H.G. Welle’s The War of The Worlds and truly spooked the country. It briefly discusses how he began h I found this book on the Robert F. Sibert Medal and Honor website. This book was a 2019 Honor book. I read this book on Overdrive. The pictures in the text were sometimes hard to look at because they would be broken up from screen to screen. I would recommend looking at this book in a paper copy in the future. This book told the story of the night that Orson Wells broadcasts the radio version of H.G. Welle’s The War of The Worlds and truly spooked the country. It briefly discusses how he began his radio show and then who he was growing up. It then goes through the process of creating the script, the night of broadcasting, and the mass hysteria that ensued that night. It then takes the reader through the aftermath of the broadcast across the globe. It talks about how the media began to change and what they could and could not say began to have stricter guidelines. I think that this book would need a lot of prior knowledge about how people received news and the importance of the radio at this time period. This would be appropriate for students ages 4-8 as an independent read with some strong background knowledge in the subject matter.

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