Thursday, August 12, 2010


by Deborah Wiles
historical fiction
377 pages
Scholastic Press

One of the year's absolute best! Countdown and The Water Seeker are my picks for Newbery, so far . . .

Countdown takes place during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Franny, 11, and her younger brother, Drew, along with all the students at Camp Springs Elementary School, practice what to do if an air raid siren goes off while they're at school. It's scary for everybody, young and old, to even think about bombs, but when President Kennedy goes on TV and tells the country about Russian missiles in Cuba pointed right at Washington D.C., terror runs rampant. It's all anyone can think about, especially in a military community like Franny's. In addition to worrying about bombs, Franny is having friend trouble, her older sister Jo Ellen receives secret letters and won't tell Franny who they're from, her mom won't allow her to go to boy-girl parties, and her Uncle Otts is going crazy.

Woven cleverly into the story are pages of mixed media from the times. Wiles includes lots of black and white photographs, posters and art work from the era, and actual text from speeches and information pamphlets. Wiles conveys through Franny and her family the scary, tense emotional state of the country during these few weeks in October, 1962. Well written, a big recommendation.

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