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Posted March 18, 2011
Thought-provoking yet entertaining
Masterful depiction of life in the early 1960s told from the viewpoint of an eleven-year-old middle-class white girl living on the East Coast. Superb writing weaves the normal daily events along with the incredible fear of a world on the brink of nuclear disaster (great visual depiction of the discussion between JFK and Nikita Khrushchev about mutual destruction) and the beginnings of major social change. I liked the way the author's respect for the reader's judgment is woven throughout the book, allowing the reader to form their own opinions of the myriad of situations. There is a whole lot included in this first of a series and the opportunities for discussion are constant. I can't help wondering if our adult book club (many of us were children during the 1960s) would enjoy this. I'm hoping my (adult) daughter will read this one, there is such a lot to talk about. As far as format, I really liked the colorful cover and the 45 that also looks like a target. Loved the inclusion of photos, quotes, lyrics, and all the other materials that added substance. I could see how it could be overwhelming though but these times were a beginning of substantial diverse changes in our society and that comes through clearly throughout the book. I definitely appreciate the author's work and am thankful she took the time to write this book. For me, it was a thorough walk down memory lane. It really is disconcerting to find that many parts of my life experiences, even though they don't feel all that long ago, are now considered history.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 9, 2010
Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com
It's 1962. It's all about your collection of 45's, boy/girl parties, TV dinners, and McDonald's. JFK is president, the Civil Rights Movement is just beginning, and Communists are evil.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Franny is eleven years old and in the fifth grade. She has an older sister who is just starting college and a younger brother who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Her father is an Air Force pilot who flies out of Andrews Air Force Base, her mother is a busy, bossy homemaker, and her Uncle Otts is crazy.
As Franny struggles to make her way through fifth grade, she has the added challenge of dealing with the fear of every American - the threat of nuclear war. Bomb shelters and air raid drills are part of daily life in her community. It was bad enough that the Communists were threatening the U.S. from the Soviet Union, but now there's the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Russians have set up shop in Cuba and have installed nuclear missiles. They are pointed at and capable of destroying major cities all over the country.
Life for Franny is all about succeeding in school, pleasing her parents, putting up with the frustration of her siblings and irritable best friends, and at the same time, learning the "duck and cover" drills and survival skills necessary to live through an atomic blast. Life isn't easy for a fifth grader these days.
COUNTDOWN is a fascinating account of one young girl's experience during the early 1960's. Author Deborah Wiles takes readers deep into the time period through Franny's thoughts and emotions. Wiles makes Franny come alive as she describes her fear, her hopes and dreams, her guilt, and her pleasures. Mixed in with her story are factual accounts of the tumultuous times, political speeches, advertisements, and survival instructions that provide an accurate timeline of the period.
COUNTDOWN is history come to life for both teen readers of today and readers who have personal memories of those trying times. Don't miss this one.
Posted July 8, 2010
suspenseful and thought-provoking
When my 9 year-old daughter said, "Mom, I don't think I'll ever find a book as good as Countdown," I pointed out to her that we'd read many books she loved and there would be others. She replied, "Yeah, but Countdown made me think." To me this summarizes how powerful this book was in hooking my daughter and me as we were transported to a different era. Interspersed throughout the novel is footage of the events that took place during the Cuba crisis in 1962 as it parallels the momentous events that are also happening in 11 year-old Franny Chapman's life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Franny is living during the period when John F. Kennedy is president of the USA and the threat of a nuclear war between her country and Russia is very real. So real in fact that they are taught and trained at school what to do in case of a bomb attack. These events affect her family; her father, a pilot in the US army, her uncle, a war veteran who suffers relapses from the 1914 war he fought, her older sister who goes to college and is touched by the radical changes in society, and her Mom who has to keep her cool throughout. In addition, Franny finds herself at odds with Margie, her best friend while trying to deal with school and home issues. The entire story takes place in the span of two suspenseful weeks, and my daughter was addicted. She said she loved imagining what would happen next, and although the ending was not quite what she expected, this book is still one of her favorites.
I want to point out that Franny's mom is a smoker, and I explained to my daughter that in the 60s the dangerous effects of smoking were unknown. Smoking was popular then and was allowed in places not allowed today. Between this topic and all the others brought up in this novel, my daughter and I had many enlightening conversations.
Blending this story with anecdotes, quotes, news coverage and mini-biographies of prominent people of the 1960s made reading this novel unlike any others we have ever read. What a great way to get a history lesson! Deborah Wiles succeeds in bringing this time period to life. We even looked up on the Internet some of the songs mentioned and my kids fell in love with Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Remember that one?
My daughter and I are happy to note that this is the first book in The Sixties Trilogy. We eagerly look forward to the next one. If it's anything like this one, it will be a sure hit.
Posted June 26, 2010
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