Witch Hunt: The Cold War, Joe McCarthy, and the Red Scare

Roaring Brook. Apr. 2024. 240p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9781250246813.
Gr 5 Up–A fascinating, if not always cohesive, accounting of Senator Joe McCarthy’s rise to power and public downfall during the Cold War. The creators of Bringing Down a President present another dark period in U.S. history. A bombastic politician, McCarthy wielded immense influence following WWII as suspicion of the USSR’s infiltration into all facets of American life overran the country. He was the face of the Red Scare and incited the government to rout out any person suspected of Communist leanings. This persecution resulted in the loss of reputations, careers, and lives of many, including Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed for treason. This riveting narrative brings history to spine-chilling life in a way that is scarily relevant today. The team showcases the history in a screenplay format, with most of the factual events shared through a question-and-answer layout. The responses are revealed via a theoretical “Fly on the Wall.” This structure is confusing and superfluous, though some reluctant readers may find it engaging. Foley’s pencil-like drawings are scattered throughout and add interest, giving readers an idea of what these historical figures looked like. Students will acquire a deeper knowledge of people like President Dwight D. Eisenhower and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. They’ll also meet Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s henchman, and Joseph Welch, the lawyer who finally brought McCarthy to justice. Back matter includes a time line, extensive source notes, and a plentiful further reading list.
VERDICT Despite the confusing format, this compelling volume on mid-20th-century American politics is a must for research students and history buffs alike.

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