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A book by Deborah Wiles

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Duck and Cover!

  • Jul 2, 2010
Imagine that you're eleven years old and your best friend suddenly seems to hate you, your older sister is obviously keeping secrets, the boy you have a crush on returns to your neighborhood, and your beloved great-uncle who lives with you is delusional. Now set all of that against the turbulent era of the early 1960s when schoolchildren are taught to duck and cover and everyone is on edge because who knows when the atomic bomb will be dropped on the U.S. There you have the premise of Deborah Wiles's Countdown, a powerful young adult novel that deposits you squarely amid the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Countdown tells its story through the eyes of Franny, whose father is a major at Andrews Air Force base, and whose life seems to turn upside down during the pivotal week when Russian missiles are found aimed at America from Cuba. Franny wants everything to be normal, but beyond her own family trials, the world seems to have lost its mind. Constantly composing a letter to Chairman Krushchev, Franny feels life spinning out of control on all levels, and she feels invisible and powerless to do anything about it.

This is a quick reading novel, and it's brilliantly written. Franny just leaps from the pages with her worries and growing recognition of just who she is. Interspersed throughout the book are actual photos, headlines, song lyrics, and speeches from the times; these add so much to the recreation of the world as it was in 1962. The author establishes the setting perfectly, and wrenches your heart with Franny's desperate longings for normalcy and acceptance. This is a strong tale that is going to stick with me for some time. Do yourself a favor and read this book. You won't regret it.

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Tammy Koudelka McCann ()
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About this book


Grade 5-8 Franny lives with her family in suburban Maryland just outside Andrews Air Force Base, circa summer of 1962. Kennedy and Khrushchev's duel on the world stage plays in the background while the fifth grader worries about her best friend's betrayal adores her college-age sister, Jo Ellen and fights with her saintly little brother, Drew. When not navigating the ups and downs of early adolescence, she writes letters to Khrushchev, prepares for air-raid drills, and investigates her sister's coded letters from Ebenezer. At its core,Countdownis a straightforward, no-surprises tale of historical fiction that at times reads like a memoir. Its unique format, however, is anything but run of the mill. Planned as the first in a trilogy, the book has been dubbed a documentary novel. In a successful effort to give readers a sense of the country's total preoccupation with all things nuclear and Communist during the height of the Cold War, Franny's narrative is punctuated by newspaper clippings, advertisements for bomb-shelter materials, news broadcasts, brief vignettes about famous figures, ephemera, and more. The overall result is somewhat frenetic but certainly effective readers are not only immersed in the era, but also experience a feeling of bombardment similar to that felt by Franny. While the narrative may not have stood solidly on its own, the documentary format and personalization of the major events of the decade will draw and dazzle readers.Jill ...
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ISBN-10: 0545106052
ISBN-13: 978-0545106054
Author: Deborah Wiles
Genre: Children's Books
Publisher: Scholastic Press
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"Duck and Cover!"
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