Sunday, January 9, 2011

Countdown and One Crazy Summer

"Franny Chapman just wants some peace. But that's hard to get when her best friend is feuding with her, her sister has disappeared, and her uncle is fighting an old war in his head. Her saintly younger brother is no help, and the cute boy across the street only complicates things. Worst of all, everyone is walking around just waiting for a bomb to fall.

"It's 1962, and it seems that the whole country is living in fear. When President Kennedy goes on television to say that Russia is sending nuclear missiles to Cuba, it only gets worse. Franny doesn't know how to deal with what's going on in the world--no more than she knows how to deal with what's going on with her family and friends. But somehow she's got to make it through."

"Countdown features a captivating story interspersed with footage from 1962. Deborah Wiles has created a documentary novel that will put you right alongside Franny as she navigates a dangerous time in both her history and our history. It is an experience you will never forget.

"...Photographs, song lyrics, advertisements, news clippings, and television snippets populate the pages of this story about the sixteen days when the world came as close as it has ever come to nuclear annihilation." (from

Countdown by Deborah Wiles ranks as one of the best books of 2010 that I have read. Not enough of my students have read this book, and I will be suggesting it to many readers. If they are skeptical of the documentary portions of the book, I will tell students to skip over them and simply read Franny's story. The story is not dependent on the photographs, advertisements, and news clippings. After completing the book, students could return to the documentary portions they skipped.

This is a book that the reader will reflect upon when finished. What if I had lived during this crisis? How would I have reacted? After reading Countdown, I find myself curious and want to ask my dad about this time period of his life. How did the Cuban Missile Crisis affect him? What are his memories? Odd that I have never asked him before.

Make sure you watch this video of Deborah Wiles explaining Countdown HERE. I found it interesting. Just below Deborah's video is the actual video of "Duck and Cover" that Franny watched at school. Wow! I wonder what my sixth graders will think after I share it with them.

And...The winner of the 2011 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction is... ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia. This is another fantastic historical fiction read that I would highly recommend. Again, this is a story that is set in the 1960's although with a different focus.

From Amazon..."Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.

"When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education."

You just can't miss these two exemplary historical fiction books! Check them out!

Happy Reading!
Mrs. T :)

P.S. Reading is like breathing chocolate air!

1 comment:

  1. I was 9 years old during the Cuban Missile Crisis and too young to understand what was going on and be scared. Might have been different if I had been 11. I lived in Memphis, a city big enough to be a bomb target. There was talk of moving kids out of town and the biggest concern, for us kids, was which plastic toy animal to take.