Rummanah Aasi
 I know some readers aren't overly fond of historical fiction, but I really do enjoy the genre as I learn details of history while reading an enjoyable story. For instance, I've heard about the Cuban Missile Crisis in school, but I didn't under the crisis part exactly until I read the first book in the planned Sixties trilogy, Countdown by Deborah Wiles.

Description (from the Publisher): Franny Chapman just wants some peace. But that's hard to get when her best friend is feuding with her, her sister has disappeared, and her uncle is fighting an old war in his head. Her saintly younger brother is no help, and the cute boy across the street only complicates things. Worst of all, everyone is walking around just waiting for a bomb to fall. It's 1962, and it seems the whole country is living in fear.

Review: Franny lives with her family in suburban Maryland just outside Andrews Air Force Base, circa summer of 1962. President Kennedy and Soviet Union leader Khrushchev duel on the possibility of a nuclear war. The world crisis continues in the background while Franny worries about her best friend's betrayal; adores her college-age sister, Jo Ellen; and fights with her saintly little brother, Drew. When not riding the tumultuous ride of early adolescence, she writes letters to Khrushchev, advising him to drop his threats and think rationally, prepares for air-raid drills, and investigates her sister's coded letters from someone named "Ebenezer."
  Countdown is a straightforward historical fiction that at times reads like a memoir. Unlike other historical fiction reads that I've read, it has a unique format. 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. All of these snippets of time period would make me anxious and feel bombarded with confusion and fear, which is similar to what Franny is feeling at the moment. I can definitely see how this format may not work with some readers, but if the time period and the events draw your interest I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook which was done very well. With the audiobook, you don't have to be afraid of the 'textbook' feel because the documentary format comes alive and Franny's coming of age is much more personal. Countdown is a great historical fiction read and I am looking forward to the other books in this Sixties trilogy.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Violence such as the race riots of the 1960s are in the back drop of the book. It is hinted at several times but not described in details. Recommended for Grades 5 and  up.

If you like this book try: The Fire-Eaters by David Almond, Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell
3 Responses
  1. I personally enjoy historical fiction and I especially like stories that take place in the 40s and 60s and 80s since my grandparents, parents and myself grew up during those times. I have not heard of this series so it is one I would be interested in if I ever find the time to read what I want...sigh...


  2. I've been meaning to read this books for a long time. I read a few negative reviews about it so I put it off. Your review makes me want to go for it.


  3. Jenny Says:

    Hmmmm. I'm curious about the print format vs. the audio book format, I would think all the newspaper clippings and things would add an interesting dynamic that would be obviously lost in the audiobook format. I guess it all depends on the person though, I'm sure you're right that seeing all those extras could make things confusing. I think I would really like that aspect though!


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