I decided to review this non-fiction book because I taught War of the Worlds, the radio script, to my 7th grade English classes. I know excerpts are often included in textbooks and it can be a wonderful introduction to readers theater for students who are reluctant to read scripts.
The book has a little bit about everything in it related to the radio play. There's an excellent introduction, followed by biographies of: Orson Welles; John Houseman, the producer; Howard Koch, the script writer; H.G. Wells, the novel's author; and Anne Froelick, who transcribed the written script and made additions and edits of her own.
There's an excellent examination of the setting, in the midst of the Depression in the late 1930s. It recounts the explosion of the Hindenburg in New Jersey, which had been broadcast via radio news bulletins, as well as accounts of Hitler and Germany's actions and aggressions leading up to WWII. It explores how scientists had previously floated the idea of life on Mars, despite not having any real concrete evidence.
There's a great account of how the Mercury Theater folks planned to update and write the script, but the idea was initially rejected by Wells as being potentially "boring." It was then re-written (and students do need to hear more stories of how famous literary works get re-written) several times and finished right before the deadline -- about a day before they went on-air with it.
Then, there's an excellent account of the broadcast, as it unfolded, and the panic it caused. There's a fairly good review of opposing views that the radio show didn't really have that big an impact and much of the "panic" was hyped by newspapers and periodicals trying to sell copies.
It also briefly goes into other popular "hoaxes" of the late 1800s to early 1900s, and there's an excellent timeline and annotated list of online and other resources for students to explore.
I used the War of the Worlds radio script in class as either a Readers Theater or as a read-along as students listened to a one-hour (about) recording of the broadcast. There are several posted to YouTube. You'll know your classes best and which format they'll get the most out of it.
If you choose to read it out loud, use the corresponding War of the Worlds Readers Theater Roles Sheet to keep track of readers. You can elect to assign roles, or allow students to volunteer or sign-up for specific roles, depending on how many days it takes your class to read. It took my 7th graders two days to read this as a Readers Theater in fourth quarter. It's a fun way to end the year, as well!
Use either Jarrow's book or another source to introduce the historical context of the setting. I used these slides to introduce the Nazi Germany's most recent event, taking the Sudetenland, before asking students to listen or read the radio broadcast. Consider coordinating with your Social Studies colleagues so this unit coincides with their teaching the events that start WWII. The slides contain standards and exit slips.
Enjoy your students reactions to this! They'll love it.