Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy, #1)” as Want to Read:
Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy #1)

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,832 Ratings  ·  1,206 Reviews
The story of a formative year in 12-year-old Franny Chapman's life, and the life of a nation facing the threat of nuclear war.

It's 1962, and it seems everyone is living in fear. Twelve-year-old Franny Chapman lives with her family in Washington, DC, during the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Amidst the pervasive threat of nuclear war, Franny must face the tensio
Hardcover, 394 pages
Published May 1st 2010 by Scholastic Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Countdown, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Jillian I believe it refers to the "Nuclear Scare" of 1962, when we were very very close to launching a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperMockingjay by Suzanne CollinsOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-GarciaCountdown by Deborah WilesMockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Newbery 2011
4th out of 135 books — 539 voters
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperFinally by Wendy MassMockingbird by Kathryn ErskineBecause of Mr. Terupt by Rob BuyeaCountdown by Deborah Wiles
Mock Newbery 2010/2011
5th out of 87 books — 223 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 15, 2010 Betsy rated it really liked it
I held this book up to the noses of the children’s bookgroup I run. “Does anyone know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was?” I asked. My point blank question was met with pointedly blank stares. I tried a little word association on them. “Duck and cover? Bunkers? Castro? Bay of Pigs?” Nope. It’s funny, but when you think of what parts of American history sort of get bypassed in school, the Cuban Missile Crisis is definitely one of them. To be fair, children’s literature has kind of let them down. T ...more
Jul 18, 2011 Megan rated it it was amazing
Actually, I'm listening to it and I'm thinking that's the way to go with this book. It has so many cool sound-bites that make it seem so real!

This just might be my all-time-favorite audio book! It was wonderful! Frannie is a 5th grade girl living in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis in a suburb of D.C. While the book certainly is a kid-friendly history lesson on the early 1960s, it also has a story line dealing with friendships and relationships, both within families and with close friends.
Monica Edinger
Feb 28, 2010 Monica Edinger rated it it was amazing
Although it evidently has been in the works for years and years, I knew nothing about this book (although I had read the author's other works) until a few weeks ago when I saw one of my goodread friends was reading it. Curious I contacted the publisher for an ARC. They told me it wasn't ready yet and they'd send me a manuscript. Now I don't generally like reading manuscripts and so told them I'd wait for the ARC, but they sent it anyway. And am I glad they did.

How to describe it? On the one hand
In the fall of 1962, Americans lived in fear of nuclear annihilation during the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis. Deborah Wiles reveals the fear and uncertainty of this time through the eyes of Frannie, a fifth grader. Frannie's older sister, Jo Ellen, sneaks off to secret meetings of a civil rights youth organization. Her father, an Air Force officer, waits on high alert at the base. Uncle Otts, a World War I veteran, barks orders at the neighbors and tries to build a bomb shelter in the yard. And h ...more
Oct 17, 2010 Wendy rated it it was ok
This is going to be my annual "I don't get it" book, I guess. I'm puzzled by the almost-universal accolades. (Review will be especially long because of Newbery talk.)

The writing itself is good enough, though marred in my opinion by overuse of similes--some of which didn't make much sense. "By the time Saturday rolls around, we're used to living like emergency room patients." I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. "I answer as if the pope himself called me and told me I could go." ??? Frann
Who as a child of the sixties remembers siren tests every Saturday at noon, and “duck and cover” drills in preparation for possible nuclear attack? I certainly do! Today, I still shudder at the memory. The onslaught of doomsday prepping and headline news, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Communism and race riots scared the bejezus out of young impressionable children.

“We hope it never comes . . . a bright flash, brighter than the sun, brighter than anything you’ve ever seen. It could knock you down
Oct 21, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
This particular book just didn't resonate with me. Deborah Wiles does a wonderful job capturing one family and community's reaction to the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis. What's particularly effective is that she captures it in a way that is realistic for a 5th grade living during that time -- she doesn't get bogged down with all the details but rather presents the fear and anxiety through the reactions of adults, air raid drills, and watching President Kennedy's speech on television.

I felt
Nov 06, 2010 Joe rated it really liked it
Countdown is nothing if not a courageous book to market to the middle school set. Complexly structured, impressed with its own scope, and ofttimes old-fashioned, it is more a test of attention-span than it is a merging of history and fiction.

This is not to say I didn't enjoy the book. I did. At times, I truly loved it. The idea of a documentary novel isn't... uhh... novel, but in the hands of Deborah Wiles, it seems like the most revolutionary concept ever. Iconic images are laid under the lyri
Reading this book was like taking a trip through time. The year in which the events took place was my last year in high school, so the songs, the photos, and the quotes were all familiar to me. Wiles does a great job of constructing the story of Franny, a fifth-grader, caught up in the country's craziness during the Cuban missile crisis. Interspersed among the chapters of Franny's story are visual reminders of the time.

I'm not sure whether to expect young adults would like this or not. If they
Jul 08, 2010 Laura rated it it was amazing
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 th ...more
Jun 15, 2010 Alison rated it really liked it
To win a copy of this book go to Alison's Book Marks Contest Ends 6/16/2010

A gripping Middle Grade novel which might also be educational - shh!

The first of Deborah Wiles's Sixties Trilogy, Countdown takes a fresh look at a coming-of-age story in the 1960s. Franny Chapman is a typical 12 year old girl, who reads Nancy Drew, has fights with her best friend, worries about how her hair looks, and has a crush on the boy down the street. We've all been there, and hundreds of books have been th
Apr 30, 2011 Megan rated it really liked it
Shelves: kid, fiction, teen, own, history, 2011
When I was in school, my Social Studies classes usually ended right around the end of the Civil War, with some information about World War I and II if we had time at the end of the year, and the 1950s onward covered only briefly. I didn't grow up knowing very much about the Cuban Missile Crisis or even very much about the Vietnam War. With that in mind I think this book is pretty valuable for kids to read - it covers a period of time they may not be very familiar with and it does so in an engagi ...more
The storyline for Countdown follows Franny Chapman's life living in America during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Along with the story, Deborah Wiles includes footage from the 1960s. The storyline kept me on the edge of my seat and, despite living in a different time period I really connected with the main character. I learned a lot about the Cuban Missile Crisis and that time in American history that I wouldn't learn in a classroom setting.
I've read plenty of historical fiction but this one was for
Jul 12, 2010 Catherine rated it liked it
I liked it fine, but don't put me on the list of people who are crazy about it. It may have been better if they toned down the photos, quotes, and documentary pieces that interspersed Franny's story. They were earnest and provocative, but they evoked a college art installation more than they did October, 1962. Also, while I knew all of the songs being referenced, and could sing them in my head, and I know who the Breck girl was, I'm not sure a lot of 21st century kids would. Not that kids have t ...more
Apr 27, 2016 Julie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, history
This is a YA book, but I enjoyed it greatly, since it was set during my growing up years, telling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and what we were told to do back then to protect ourselves . The girl in the story was 7 years older than I would have been, so I learned a lot more about it all by reading her book, since I was really young when it was all happening, I don't think I paid as much attention to it as an older girl would have . It was called a Documentary Novel, which was a new type of book ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Julie by: Tim
Tim read this for his Language Arts class and highly recommended it. Deborah Wiles’ story heavily borrows from her own childhood and memories of duck-and-cover drills in suburban Washington, and she gives a strong sense of place and time with headlines, quotes, and photos from 1962. 11-year-old Franny has a best friend who is no longer her friend, a college-aged sister who spends more and more time away from the family, and an uncle who sometimes thinks he is still fighting WWII. She feels oppre ...more
Nicole Santiago
Countdown by Deborah Wiles is a fictionalized memoir set in 1962 and narrated by 5th grader Franny Chapman. Franny and her family live in the suburbs of Washington D.C. where themes of friendship and coming of age play out in the foreground and the story of the Cuban missile crisis and Civil Rights Movement play out in background. Just as Franny, a well-developed and round character, learns to respect a long-time friend who turns into her enemy, the United States also copes with its relationship ...more
Franki Sibberson
Apr 05, 2010 Franki Sibberson rated it it was amazing
Unbelievable book! Maybe be one of my favorite books of all time. I have always love Deborah Wiles but I think this puts her up there with Sharon Creech, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Kingsolver. Really an amazing book. Brilliantly done and some of my favorite characters ever.

Wow! This book has been sitting in my classroom library for a couple of years, and I had heard all the good things about it, and had even flipped through it-- looking at the unique way the book is put together. As is the case for most of us with never-ending to-be-read lists, I always had another book that pushed this one further down the pile. I'm glad that I finally read this one.

Countdown is the first book in Deborah Wiles' "'60s" series. (The second book, Revolution was released in 2014, an

Aug 27, 2015 Hilary rated it really liked it
Everything is moving along in Franny's life as normal. She goes to school, has fights with friends, and spends time with her family. Then, the threat of nuclear war. Everyone's world is turned upside down, living in a shadow of fear. Although its face value screams out typical coming of age story, it is anything but. It is littered with speeches, newspaper articles, advertisements, songs, radio announcements and other snippets of popular culture from the time period. We follow Franny, and her qu ...more
Ms Threlkeld
Jul 26, 2015 Ms Threlkeld rated it really liked it
It's 1962 and 11 year-old Franny is just trying to survive the drama of 5th grade and her somewhat unusual family when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurs. Framing this historical event with primary source documents, such as song lyrics, snippets of speeches, and advertisements, makes it relevant and accessible to readers, especially those who weren't alive during the 60's. A riveting and fast-paced read (despite being almost 400 pages), this book is perfect for 5th-8th grade readers interested in h ...more
Mar 07, 2011 Maricor rated it really liked it
Countdown by Deborah Wiles (2010)
Historical Fiction, 377 pages
Wrapped up in atomic war threats during the Cuban Missile Crisis, eleven year-old Franny is trying to get through the fifth grade and live a normal life. However, life is anything but normal when her uncle, dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder from WWII, is having flashbacks, her sister is disappearing for long periods of time and receiving secret letters in code, her annoying brother Drew is perfect and loved by all, and her be
Feb 27, 2011 Caren rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The author is one year older than I am, and she has perfectly described the world of our youth. This book is billed as a documentary novel and makes great use of many photos and quotes from the period. The story takes place in October 1962, the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Although I don't ever recall seeing the film "Duck and Cover", and do not remember having nuclear attack drills, everything else about the time is so right on the nose accurate, it ...more
Renee Wallace
May 19, 2010 Renee Wallace rated it it was amazing
It's not just that Ms. Wiles so evidently has done her homework, and so clearly recalls personal feelings of that time; it is her absolute gift for recounting those dreadful tween feelings, of change, insecurity, and peer pressure, with that hideous Missile Crisis as a backdrop!

I first "discovered" her when I picked up EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. That one helped me through the death of a close friend, and I never put it down till I was finished. Then, as now, I cried, I laughed, and I felt as i
Oct 05, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
LOVED it! This is such a cool book with an interesting concept. It's part 1 of what is set to be a trilogy, which makes me excited for the next installment. Too bad this just came out because it makes the wait that much longer for part 2.

Anyway, this is a Juvenile "documentary novel," a genre I've never heard of before - and am not sure that the author didn't just make up :) It's a fictional story that takes place in the 60's, specifically the days that made up the Cuban Missile Crisis. To begin
The Rusty Key
Oct 26, 2010 The Rusty Key rated it liked it
Reviewed by Rusty Key Writer: Jordan B. Nielsen

Recommended for: Boys and girls, aged ten and up, for themes of nuclear annihilation, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

One Word Summary: Sobering.

Until reading Countdown, I never really considered the Cuban Missile Crisis, or how petrifying an experience that must have been for the Nation. I came of age during the first Gulf War, when danger was something seen on the television in green, grainy night-cam, and happening far, far away: Sad for othe
Sep 04, 2010 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Touted as a “documentary novel” Countdown leverages imagery and quotes from the early 1960s to set the backdrop for the life of middle schooler Franny Chapman. The youngest daughter of a pilot, Franny lives off base and attends public school just outside the confines of Andrews Air Force Base during a very tumultuous time in political history. Surrounded on all sides by the effects of the Cuban Missile Crisis she attempts to navigate already difficult familial and social circumstances now exacer ...more
Barb Middleton
Feb 13, 2012 Barb Middleton rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Franny is stuck in the middle like the filling of an oreo cookie. Her older sister is gorgeous. Her younger brother is extremely kind. Franny’s dubbed him, The Saint. Franny feels invisible. In school. At home. And lately, with her best friend, Margie.

Set in the 1960s during the Cuban Missile crisis, this story is revolves around Franny. At school they are practicing bomb drills while at home Uncle Otts wants to build a bomb shelter. Her big sister, JoEllen, is going to college and is getting se
Feb 25, 2012 M. rated it it was amazing
2013 Rebecca Caudill nominee. Written in the first person by 11-year old Franny Chapman and full of the dynamics of being 11.

Interspersed with the narrative are all sorts of magazine pictures and news items about what was going on then, making those things real--Kennedy, Krushchev, racial incidents and organizations to promote racial equality, how to build a bomb shelter. It was a time of shifting foundations, not only because of fear of war but also because of fear of changes in the social net
Oct 05, 2010 Vicki rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book! Probably due to the fact that I was about the same age as Franny during this part of the sixties - and it was a step back in time for me, (though at age 9 I had never heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis) but mainly because the characters all rang so true to the times (how many kids books set in the sixties have parents smoking, and it's considered perfectly normal behavior?). In the author's own words, this book is described as a "documentary novel". Breaking up the text of the ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What Do You Think? 4 27 Feb 18, 2014 03:08PM  
  • The Water Seeker
  • One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters, #1)
  • Born to Fly
  • The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
  • Bird in a Box
  • The Dreamer
  • How to Survive Middle School
  • The Trouble with May Amelia (May Amelia, #2)
  • Ninth Ward
  • The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had
  • Chasing Secrets
  • Crow
  • Keeper
  • Black Radishes (Black Radishes, #1)
  • Jefferson's Sons
  • Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War
  • As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth
  • The Rock and the River (The Rock and the River, #1)
Deborah Wiles was born in Alabama and spent her summers in a small Mississippi town with an extended family full of characters. She writes about them and they live on in her stories.

She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College and taught at Towson University in Maryland, Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at Vermont College.

Deborah has written three novels about growing up in
More about Deborah Wiles...

Other Books in the Series

The Sixties Trilogy (2 books)
  • Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy, #2)

Share This Book

“The secret to not being afraid is to understand what scares you” 25 likes
“There are always scary things happening in the world. There are always wonderful things happening. And it's up to you to decide how you're going to approach the you're going to live in it, and what you're going to do."

—Jo Ellen Chapman”
More quotes…