Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Wiles, Deborah. 2010. COUNTDOWN. New York. Scholastic. ISBN 9780545106054 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

Wiles focuses her story on 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis which is a very tense time for Franny’s family since her father is in the Air Force and they live close to Andrew’s Air Force Base. Family and friends practice for nuclear disaster and fear is familiar. Franny is eleven and her world is rapidly changing. Her sister has secrets that she doesn’t understand, her mother is very tense-- smoking cigarettes every chance she gets, her great uncle is suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome which is horribly embarrassing to her, and her little brother is so frightened that he won’t eat. Enter a long lost friend of hers (who happens to be a boy) and more complications ensue.

Although weighing in at 377 pages, COUNTDOWN is extensively illustrated with black and white photographs, lyrics, and quotations that immediately pull readers into the sixties. The book design is remarkable: the jacket cover has a raised tactile representation of a 45 r.p.m. single record. Too bad librarians will have to put a book jacket on this gem. The end pages are also textured with vertical stripes, tone on tone black. Welcome back to the sixties! Even though it is a hefty tome, readers are going to be fascinated with the “documentary” evidence as well as Franny Chapman’s engaging story. This is the first book in a proposed three-volume set about the sixties.

Invite students to use a digital storytelling tool to recreate the decade using pictures and memorabilia of the sixties.

Other books by the same author:

By Cay Geisler

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