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Countdown (The Sixties Trilogy #1)

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  8,378 Ratings  ·  1,277 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
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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.

Community Reviews

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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
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
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
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
Aug 29, 2016 Msjodi777 rated it it was amazing
Not really sure if this would be considered a YA book or not, but as old as I am, I really enjoyed it. Could have been because like the main character, I lived thru the Cuban Missile Crisis, on an Air Force Base (actually only a couple hundred miles from where this book takes place) and the book gives such a true account of what those 2 weeks were like for us. This book brought back quite a bit of what it was like to live in the early sixties, with the language we really used - Heavens to Murgat ...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
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.
Jun 12, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
When I was approached by the publisher to review Countdown by Deborah Wiles, I was a bit hesitant because it seemed outside my normal reading habits. However, as soon as I started reading, all I could think was, what was I thinking?? I adore history (was a history and english major in college), I LOVE primary documents, I love digging into an era, and well, I love revisiting a past era. All that plus more is present in this engrossing story.

Synopsis: It's 1962, and it seems everyone is living in
Sep 28, 2016 Cathy rated it liked it
I do love the way Wiles weaves historic events in the form of actual headlines, quotes, song lyrics, photographs, memes, posters, and other memorabilia throughout the fictional lives of her characters. It's like sifting through a trunk in the attic.

A 5-year-old at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, I have no memory of the actual event, but 13 months later, the assassination of JFK, left me with such vivid impressions that I now wonder if they were so vivid, at least in part, because of the c
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
Jennifer Mangler
This was my SSR book for September, and I always hated to put it down when the bell rang. Wiles is really good at putting us smack dab in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Looking back on it, it can be difficult to understand how terrified people were. But seeing events through Frannie's eyes really gives the reader a clear understanding of what it was like to live through those scary events. The photos, ads, and news clippings embedded in the story also help to place the reader in those t ...more
Mar 20, 2011 Mallory rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: children who like fiction or nonfiction, but not both; flower children
Recommended to Mallory by: scholastic as part of a reviewers' giveaway
I was surprised when I received this novel as part of a GoodReads giveaway for pre-release reviews from Scholastic, because I had not realized from the description that this would be a children's/YA novel. And, while it may not be as fantastical as the The Hunger Games trilogy, it is equally as stirring and important. Hopefully, it will be equally recognized.

Franny's entire life is changing. She is 11 years old and in the fifth grade, poised on the brink of childhood and young adulthood. Her onc
Mar 01, 2011 Kelly rated it liked it
Countdown Scholastic Press, 2010, 377 pp $17.99
Deborah Wiles ISBN978-0-545-10605-4

It's 1962 and Franny is living in a country on its toes. Kennedy has just announced that the Soviet Union has sent nuclear missiles to Cuba, which might be able to reach as far as Washington D.C.. 5th grader Franny's world is falling apart. Her sister is no where to be found, her uncle is reliving an old war- on their front lawn. Her mother is annoying, her brother is the star child, a cute boy isn't helping, and
Feb 16, 2011 Abbie rated it it was amazing
So far, Countdown is my favorite book of 2011. I know it's only been 2011 for a couple of weeks, but I LOVE this book! Wiles describes the book as a "documentary novel," and I think that is a perfect description. The story is set in 1962, and the text is interspersed with images, speeches, soundbites, and songs from the period leaving the reader immersed in the time period. What a fabulous idea! I would love to read this book with my students.

Franny Chapman is an eleven year old with problems. T
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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What Do You Think? 4 27 Feb 18, 2014 03:08PM  
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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)

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“The secret to not being afraid is to understand what scares you” 27 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”
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