After hearing so many fantastic things about Deborah Wiles' latest middle grade novel, I was a tad skeptical to read it. Honestly, when a book is hyped so much, it almost never quite lives up to what everyone is saying. I know you know what I'm talking about! So, I was more than pleasantly surprised when Countdown not only lived up to the hype, but surpassed it by leaps and bounds.
Taking place during the early 1960's, the time of President John F. Kennedy's term and in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Franny is 11 years old and totally mixed up. Her family seems to be falling apart, from an Uncle that has more than a few mental issues stemming from his time in the war, to a sister that has gone away to college and is exhibiting mysterious behavior, to a father in the Air Force who is never home or always on call.
Franny is a typical preteen, with a crush, friendship problems, and a crazy family, yet she's living during a time of fear and turmoil. Nuclear air raid drills take place almost daily at school and her Uncle wants to build a bomb shelter in their front yard. And living just outside Washington D.C. on an Air Force Base (a very possible target for the missiles) is not doing Franny's worrying any favors.
Blended in with the pages of texts are excerpts of speeches, songs, and propaganda that was around during the 60's and the Cuban Missile Crisis. So cool! We get Franny's story of confusion and hope, mixed with real cultural references, presented in a unique way that is most definitely interesting and fun to look through.
I think this would be an awesome book to read out loud to your class (or do a classroom read) and discuss comparisons between Franny's world and our world today, living during the War on Terror. Have them suggest what propaganda/speeches/songs/etc. would be included in the pages of their own story and what types of fears kids today have to deal with.
Definitely one of the better historical novels I've read recently! And apparently it's the first in a trilogy, which is great news for me. I could definitely do with more Franny and more cool novels like this.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Review copy provided by publisher
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