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Countdown (The sixties trilogy #1)

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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  6,344 ratings  ·  1,051 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
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Hardcover, 377 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.
Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsOut of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-GarciaCountdown by Deborah WilesMockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Newbery 2011
4th out of 147 books — 498 voters
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperFinally by Wendy MassMockingbird by Kathryn ErskineCountdown by Deborah WilesBecause of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
Mock Newbery 2010/2011
4th out of 82 books — 196 voters


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Community Reviews

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Betsy
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
Donalyn
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
Monica Edinger
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
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Megan
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.
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Wendy
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
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Joe
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
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Susan
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
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Alison
To win a copy of this book go to Alison's Book Marks Contest Ends 6/16/2010

REVIEW:
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
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Laura
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
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Megan
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
Catherine
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
Julie
Jan 13, 2015 Julie rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Franki Sibberson
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.
Laura
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
Maricor
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
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Caren
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 Bush
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
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Sarah
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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The Rusty Key
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
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Michelle
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
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
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M.
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
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Vicki
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
Liza Gilbert
I adored this book and have read nothing like it. Half book, half documentary, Wiles paints a picture of the early 1960s and the fear of nuclear attack by the Russians. What drew me in were Wiles' placement of photographs, song lyrics, government quotes, and art from the time period. To me, they were a very effective use of graphics within a novel.
I thought all the characters were wonderfully drawn, including the beloved Uncle who has some of the best lines in the book. Jack is also perfectly wr
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Sarah
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
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Kelly
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
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Mallory
Mar 20, 2011 Mallory rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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Holly
Reread: I loved it just as much as the first time. I so admire how Wiles tackles every day problems as well as global issues and politics in this story. I reread it to refresh my memory so I could read REVOLUTION. This is a terrific book! I loved Deborah Wiles for Each Little Bird That Sings, and now I love her even more! I don't think I've ever read an historical fiction book about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I love to learn history through a great story - and this is a great story! I liste ...more
Kate
I absolutely loved COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles. Franny's coming-of-age story, set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, is the best kind of historical fiction -- firmly rooted in the feelings and details of a time period but with young characters that feel as real and modern as any kid next door. Mixed in with the novel's main plot line are many images, cartoons, quotes, and sidebars that provide a greater context for the story, and these are fascinating. I read COUNTDOWN as a before- ...more
Kerri
This was a really fun book to read. The infusion of the documentary-type pictures, quotes, and biographies made it even more interesting than the story line. I read in acknowledgements that she started this book as a picture book and eventually wrote the novel around the pictures and events of the Cuban Missle Crisis. She even based most of the story on actual places and people she grew up with as a military child. I am looking forward to the other two books in this "Sixties Trilogy" and will be ...more
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What Do You Think? 4 24 Feb 18, 2014 11:08PM  
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Deborah Wiles was born in Alabama and spent her summers in a small Mississippi town with an extended family. She writes about them and they live on in her stories.

She has 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 the south. They are k
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More about Deborah Wiles...

Other Books in the Series

The sixties trilogy (2 books)
  • Revolution
Each Little Bird that Sings Love, Ruby Lavender Freedom Summer Revolution The Aurora County All-Stars

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“The secret to not being afraid is to understand what scares you” 19 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 world...how you're going to live in it, and what you're going to do."

—Jo Ellen Chapman”
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