Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy Series #1)

Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy Series #1)

4.3 8
by Deborah Wiles, Emma Galvin
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wiles heads north from her familiar Mississippi terrain (Each Little Bird That Sings) for this “documentary novel” set in Maryland during the Cuban missile crisis. Eleven-year-old Franny, a middle child, is in the thick of it—her father (like Wiles’s was) is a pilot stationed at Andrews Air Force Base. Wiles palpably recreates the fear kids felt when air-raid sirens and duck-and-cover drills were routine, and when watching President Kennedy’s televised speech announcing the presence of missiles in Cuba was an extra-credit assignment. Home life offers scant refuge. Franny’s beloved older sister is keeping secrets and regularly disappearing; her mother’s ordered household is upended by the increasingly erratic behavior of Uncle Otts (a WWI veteran); and Franny’s relationship with her best friend Margie is on the brink as both vie for the same boy’s attention. Interwoven with Franny’s first-person, present-tense narration are period photographs, newspaper clippings, excerpts from informational pamphlets (how to build a bomb shelter), advertisements, song lyrics, and short biographical vignettes written in past tense about important figures of the cold war/civil rights era—Harry S. Truman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Pete Seeger. The back-and-forth is occasionally dizzying, but the striking design and heavy emphasis on primary source material may draw in graphic novel fans. Culminating with Franny’s revelation that “It’s not the calamity that’s the hard part. It’s figuring out how to love one another through it,” this story is sure to strike a chord with those living through tough times today. Ages 9-12. (May)
From the Publisher

Praise for Countdown:

* “Wiles skillfully keeps many balls in the air, giving readers a story that appeals across the decades as well as offering enticing paths into the history.” - Booklist, starred review

* “The larger story…told here in an expert coupling of text and design, is how life endures, even triumphs, no matter how perilous the times.” - Horn Book, starred review

* “References to duct tape (then newly invented), McDonald's and other pop culture lend authenticity to this phenomenal story of the beginnings of radical change in America.” - Kirkus, starred review

* “Wiles palpably recreates the fear kids felt when air-raid sirens and duck-and-cover drills were routine…this story is sure to strike a chord with those living through tough times today.” - Publishers Weekly, starred review

Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 forms the backdrop for this coming-of-age story of eleven-year-old Franny Chapman. Her life as a fifth grader has become very complicated. She has become invisible to her teacher; her college-age sister, Jo Ellen, has become quite secretive; her younger brother, Drew, is Mr. Perfect; her Uncle Otts is acting strangely and becoming increasingly more of an embarrassment to her. What is more, her best friend, Margie, is distancing herself from Franny. With the Cold War heating up as Russian missiles are within striking distance of her home near Washington, DC, Franny must deal with the threat of war as well as the unsettling events of her own life. Wiles brings together all the elements of the story as she creates a most satisfying ending. Interspersed with Franny's story are photographs and text from songs, advertisements, and speeches from the 1960s. They provide background on the social and political events of the day for young readers, and bring back many memories for adults who lived through this time. Wiles' beautifully written, carefully crafted tale immerses readers in the turbulence of the early 1960s while reminding us that human nature remains constant. The literary allusions to bright light and blindness are successfully carried throughout the story. The photographs are not chronologically presented, which may be a bit confusing to some readers at the younger age level—a very minor concern. This is Book One of "The Sixties Trilogy." I anxiously await Book Two. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Franny lives with her family in suburban Maryland just outside Andrews Air Force Base, circa summer of 1962. Kennedy and Khrushchev's duel on the world stage plays in the background while the fifth grader worries about her best friend's betrayal; adores her college-age sister, Jo Ellen; and fights with her saintly little brother, Drew. When not navigating the ups and downs of early adolescence, she writes letters to Khrushchev, prepares for air-raid drills, and investigates her sister's coded letters from "Ebenezer." At its core, Countdown is a straightforward, no-surprises tale of historical fiction that at times reads like a memoir. Its unique format, however, is anything but run of the mill. Planned as the first in a trilogy, the book has been dubbed a "documentary novel." In a successful effort to give readers a sense of the country's total preoccupation with all things nuclear and Communist during the height of the Cold War, Franny's narrative is punctuated by newspaper clippings, advertisements for bomb-shelter materials, news broadcasts, brief vignettes about famous figures, ephemera, and more. The overall result is somewhat frenetic but certainly effective; readers are not only immersed in the era, but also experience a feeling of bombardment similar to that felt by Franny. While the narrative may not have stood solidly on its own, the documentary format and personalization of the major events of the decade will draw and dazzle readers.—Jill Heritage Maza, Greenwich High School, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Just as 11-year-old Franny Chapman squabbles with her once-best friend in their neighborhood near Andrews Air Force Base, outside of Washington, D.C., President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev are also at odds. Franny's spot-on "Heavens to Murgatroyd" dialogue captures the trepidation as the world holds its breath during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Adding to the pressure are her college-student, activist older sister, who may be a spy, her aspiring-astronaut younger brother, who refuses to eat, her steely, chain-smoking mother, who has inexplicably burst into tears, her often-absent pilot father, now spending long days on base, and her PTSD-suffering, World War I-veteran Uncle Otts, who's digging up the front yard to build a bomb shelter. Wiles's "documentary novel," based on her own childhood memories and the first in The Sixties Project trilogy, has a striking scrapbook feel, with ingeniously selected and placed period photographs, cartoons, essays, song lyrics, quotations, advertisements and "duck and cover" instructions interspersed through the narrative. References to duct tape (then newly invented), McDonald's and other pop culture lend authenticity to this phenomenal story of the beginnings of radical change in America. (historical note, author's note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-13)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307879653
Publisher:
Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/11/2011
Series:
Sixties Trilogy Series, #1
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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