Countdown by Deborah Wiles
AR Reading Level: 4.4
On the library stacks: Children's fiction
Awards: Booklist Editors' Choice; Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year
Series: Book 1 of 3 (The Sixties Trilogy)
Recommended for: Grades 4+
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As soon as I first caught wind of this book, I knew I was going to love it. This book focuses on the Cuban Missile Crisis, painting an unforgettable picture using lyrics, quotes, clippings, and images. While the Cold War provides the main backdrop, it also contains other critical elements from the 1960s including the Civil Rights Movement, the Kennedys, and The Red Scare.
Franny is a 5th grader and lives in Maryland. Her dad is a member of the Air Force and works out of Andrews AFB. It's October 1962 and Franny can't understand fully what is going on. Her parents say everything is fine, there are scary air raid drills at school, her World War I veteran uncle says they must build a fallout shelter in the backyard, and her sister has disappeared to college with her "thinking" friends. To add to her confusion, her teacher spends a morning teaching the students about the heart and humanity of the Cuban people.
This is a poignant and funny novel about growing up and making sense of uncertainty and change. Franny emerges from her experiences as a better friend, a better daughter, and a better sister. I think this book is a great overview of the time period for middle grade readers and the story is one that will resonate with readers of all ages. This is one I'm looking forward to sharing with my daughter.
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3 hours ago