akibird

A Blog of Children's Literature

Countdown March 7, 2011

CountdownCountdown by Deborah Wiles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Countdown by Deborah Wiles (2010)

Historical Fiction, 377 pages

Wrapped up in atomic war threats during the Cuban Missile Crisis, 11-year-old Franny is trying to get through the fifth grade and live a normal life. However, life is anything but normal when her uncle, dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder from WWII, is having flashbacks, her sister is disappearing for long periods of time and receiving secret letters in code, her annoying brother Drew is perfect and loved by all, and her best friend Margie starts to turn her back on her and competes with her for the affections of Chris, the boy who lives across the street. With impending doom on the horizon, Franny tries to keep things together by telegraphing her thoughts to people, learning new words in her Word Wealth Junior, doing all her extra credit, and solving mysteries with Nancy Drew. In Countdown, Wiles captures the mindset and heart of an average fifth grader dealing with the terror and imminent threat of nuclear war during the 1960’s culture and social climate. Images of the Kennedy’s, fallout shelters, Civil Rights activists, and astronauts interspersed with lyrics from period music, stories of influential people, political speeches and propaganda paper the pages of Countdown to set the scene for readers to understand Franny’s life and her fears. Wiles does an excellent job of drawing on history and artifacts to intertwine with Franny’s narrative, while the book designer ,Phil Falco, has helped marry historical fact and fiction with the layout of images and textual design. Countdown is eye candy for any history lover, while the story is a great look into the minds and hearts of children during October of 1962. With its bibliography and media credits, the book would be an excellent starting resource for fifth through eighth grade students learning about communism, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, or JFK.

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