Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Countdown by Deborah Wiles - Review

Deborah Wiles
Scholastic Press
377 pgs. + Notes

Countdown is the first book in a planned trilogy of the sixties.  Interspersed throughout the text are newspaper articles, cartoons, song lyrics, biographies, and photos.  These artifacts give us an additional layer of story and depth.  They are not necessary to the reading of the story but are certainly welcome.

Fifth-grader Franny is on the outs with her best friend, Margie.  Her Uncle Otto is starting to lose his mind.  Jo Ellen, her older sister, is disappearing longer and longer each day.  Franny's life is falling apart and she's not sure why.  The constant air raids and news of the missle crisis has everyone on edge.  There is one bright spot though, Chris Cavas has moved back to the neighborhood and although she's having a tough time with Margie, maybe Chris can be her new friend.

Franny's is a military family.  Her dad is a pilot and her uncle is retired from the military.  They live in a neighborhood with other military families.  It is their life.  When President Kennedy comes on the news talking about the Russians stockpiling weapons, it changes things in many ways for these families.  Everyone is on high alert.  The stress proves to be too much for Uncle Otto and the family is afraid of what he will do next or what will happen to him.

Countdown has a pervasive air of fear and anticipation, mimicing the country's mood during the sixties. It's about friendship and family and how we define those things.  We get information about a less talked about but very important part of our history and how it affected people during that time, those in the military as well as those fighting for their rights here at home. 

Countdown is a hard story to classify.  It's historical fiction, to be sure, but who is the audience?  The story was fantastic but coupled with the in-depth history, it might be overwhelming to students.  I'll have to re-read it closer to summer's end and find the right audience. For now, 3 copies.

Book Trailer

You might also like:
The Red Umbrella
Born To Fly
The Rock and The River

ARC supplied by Scholastic Press.


  1. I enjoyed this one, but I agree with the difficulty in figuring out the audience. The historical parts might take some extra explanation from teachers/ parents. But the pictures and clips at least give a little exposure to the topic.

  2. I hated it. It was so boring. Now this is coming from a young boy reading about an 11 year old girl.

  3. I quite liked the book, and I loved the bits from the 1960s within it. The story itself was good, but I just loved how you could really get a grasp on what actually was going on during the Cuban Missile Crisis, living in 2011.

    I'm 12, by the way.

  4. i liked the book.......this is coming from a girl reading from another girl!! so yes i liked it


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