Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy Series #1) by Deborah Wiles, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy Series #1)

Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy Series #1)

4.3 8
by Deborah Wiles
     
 

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The story of a formative year in 12-year-old Franny Chapman's life, and the life of a nation facing the threat of nuclear war.

It's 1962, and it seems everyone is living in fear. Twelve-year-old Franny Chapman lives with her family in Washington, DC, during the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Amidst the pervasive threat of nuclear war, Franny must

Overview


The story of a formative year in 12-year-old Franny Chapman's life, and the life of a nation facing the threat of nuclear war.

It's 1962, and it seems everyone is living in fear. Twelve-year-old Franny Chapman lives with her family in Washington, DC, during the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Amidst the pervasive threat of nuclear war, Franny must face the tension between herself and her younger brother, figure out where she fits in with her family, and look beyond outward appearances. For Franny, as for all Americans, it's going to be a formative year.

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)
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)
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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780545106054
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
05/01/2010
Series:
Sixties Trilogy Series, #1
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
607,137
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile:
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author


Deborah Wiles is the author of the picture book Freedom Summer and three novels: Love, Ruby Lavender; The Aurora County All-Stars; and Each Little Bird That Sings, a National Book Award finalist. She has vivid memories of ducking and covering under her school desk during air raid drills at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. She also sang in the Glee Club, was a champion speller, and hated Field Day. Deborah lives in Atlanta, Georgia. You can visit her on the web at www.deborahwiles.com.

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