Published: May 2010
Hardcover, 400 pages
When my 9 year-old daughter said, “Mom, I don’t think I’ll ever find a book as good as Countdown,” I pointed out to her that we’d read many books she loved and there would be others. She replied, “Yeah, but Countdown made me think.” To me this summarizes how powerful this book was in hooking my daughter and me as we were transported to a different era. Interspersed throughout the novel is footage of the events that took place during the Cuba crisis in 1962 as it parallels the momentous events that are also happening in 11 year-old Franny Chapman’s life.
Franny is living during the period when John F. Kennedy is president of the USA and the threat of a nuclear war between her country and Russia is very real. So real in fact that they are taught and trained at school what to do in case of a bomb attack. These events affect her family; her father, a pilot in the US army, her uncle, a war veteran who suffers relapses from the 1914 war he fought, her older sister who goes to college and is touched by the radical changes in society, and her Mom who has to keep her cool throughout. In addition, Franny finds herself at odds with Margie, her best friend while trying to deal with school and home issues. The entire story takes place in the span of two suspenseful weeks, and my daughter was addicted. She said she loved imagining what would happen next, and although the ending was not quite what she expected, this book is still one of her favorites.
I want to point out that Franny’s mom is a smoker, and I explained to my daughter that in the 60s the dangerous effects of smoking were unknown. Smoking was popular then and was allowed in places not allowed today. Between this topic and all the others brought up in this novel, my daughter and I had many enlightening conversations.
Blending this story with anecdotes, quotes, news coverage and mini-biographies of prominent people of the 1960s made reading this novel unlike any others we have ever read. What a great way to get a history lesson! Deborah Wiles succeeds in bringing this time period to life. We even looked up on the Internet some of the songs mentioned and my kids fell in love with Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Remember that one?
My daughter and I are happy to note that this is the first book in The Sixties Trilogy. We eagerly look forward to the next one. If it’s anything like this one, it will be a sure hit.
Disclosure: Thank you to Nikole from Scholastic Canada for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.