Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

Book Jacket

A time that changed the world.  A time that changed Franny's life.

Franny Chapman just wants some peace.  But that's hard to get when her best friend is feuding with her, her sister has disappeared, and her uncle is fighting an old war in his head.  Her saintly younger brother is no help, and the cute boy across the street only complicates things.  Worst of all, everyone is walking around just waiting for a bomb to fall.

It's 1962, and it seems that the whole country is living in fear.  When President Kennedy goes on television to say that Russia is sending nuclear missiles to Cuba, it only gets worse.  Franny doesn't know how to deal with what's going on in the world--no more than she knows how to deal with what's going on with her family and friends.  But somehow she's got to make it through.

Featuring a captivating story interspersed with footage from 1962, award-winning author Deborah Wiles has created a documentary novel that will put you right alongside Franny as she navigates a dangerous time in both her history and our history.  It is an experience you will never forget.


Throughout my school experience, every World or American History class I took inevitably ran out of time somewhere around the end of WWII.  I therefore have very little knowledge about the 1950s-1980s.  Wiles has accomplished what so many history teachers strive to create: an exciting, immersive look at a pivotal time in world history.

The Cuban Missile Crisis.  Previously, I learned more about this stressful time in X-Men: First Class than anywhere else.  I now have a much fuller, and less mutant-centric, understanding of what went down.  Wiles intercuts her story of a young girl's coming-of-age with lots and lots of interviews, speeches, advertisements, sports announcements, quotes, pictures of celebrities, and Duck and Cover atomic bomb warnings.  As a result, I felt like I sank into the time period very easily.

Franny is a great character, embarrassed by her family, worried about her friendships, unsure of her cute neighbor, and terrified that an atomic bomb might drop on her school at any moment.  I was impressed with how Wiles wrote a very personal story about a little girl while world-building the 1960s so easily at the same time.  This was a very informative, very entertaining read.

Five out of five Bert the Turtles.

Release Date: May 2010
Reading Level: Grade 4+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: CAUDILL

1 comment:

  1. Man, oh man, I think Countdown is awesome! All of the images throughout added so much atmosphere to the text. I just finished Life by Mal Peet which is also about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and all throughout I kept thinking, "Yup, I still rather give kids Countdown." (If they just so happened to be in the market for a C.M.Crisis book :)