Tuesday, November 23, 2010
2010; Scholastic; ISBN 978-0-545-10605-4 (hardcover)
Historical Period/Events: 1960s America; Cuban Missile Crisis; Cold War
Summary: Franny feels invisible: her little brother Drew is perfect and her older sister Jo Ellen is a college girl with a secret. Her best friend Margie treats Franny badly and she doesn't know why. Worst of all, her uncle Otts has gone crazy it seems. In the midst of this drama, Franny's life is changed, like every other American's, by the announcement that missiles have been located in Cuba. Gripped by the Cuban missile crisis, Franny tries to make sense of a world turned upside-down. Can one eleven-year-old find strength and hope in such a world?
A coming-of-age novel based on Deborah Wiles's life, Countdown is an emotional look at the Cuban missile crisis. The tension and uncertainty of the period is part of the narrative, giving readers a look at this piece of Cold War history. The story is interspersed with a scrapbook-like collection of photos, newspaper articles and quotes, giving a documentary feel to this novel. But Franny's relationships with her family are at the heart of this novel, and we see Franny's family as flawed and sympathetic characters. More a children's novel than a YA book, Countdown can still be enjoyed by middle schoolers interested in the Cold War.