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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 I would love to do this with interested PAT higher level readers that are interested in historical fiction There are so many great investigations that kids could explore that would be related to the time period of the book I would also love to have the kids listen to it, while following along in the book. 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 her younger brother, Drew, the perfect one, clutches his copy of Our Friend the Atom and refuses to eat Against this backdrop of civil unrest, Frannie fights with her best friend, steals her sister s records, and crushes on a boy in her class This book is a nice mix of historical and cultural information and a family story.The innovative format of this book includes artifacts like photographs, advertisements, quotes, and song lyrics interspersed throughout the book This is the first book in a proposed trilogy about the 1960 s. 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 it is a very straightforward work of historical fiction On the other hand it is also filled with primary sources, collages of them, and nonfiction vignettes Wiles is calling it a documentary novel I loved, loved, loved it.It is the story of Franny and her family and friends over the brief, but frightening time of the Cuban Missile Crisis Based on her own childhood memories, Wiles represents the time and place vividly And her characters are nuanced and complex Not a one dimensional one in the lot There is the beloved older sister who is off to college and activism And the earnest younger brother who lugs around a beloved book on atoms and wants to be an astronaut The very 60s mother who plays bridge, bowls, and is rarely without a cigarette The great uncle who suffers from post traumatic stress not that it is so identified as this is 1962, of course The very 60s and often absent military dad Most of all there is our protagonist Franny an endearing and complicated eleven year old As happens at this age, Franny s own world is changing as harshly as is the big world She s facing off her former best friend even as Kennedy and Khrushchev are on the world stage On the brink I enjoyed reading every bit of it.Now would I have been as wild about it without the documentary stuff Honestly I d definitely enjoyed the story, but this additional material, bricolage, the scrapbook stuff takes it to a really wonderful level There are posters about duck and cover About making bomb shelters There are song lyrics Photos And lively small essays about significant figures, say Truman I can t wait to see the ARC and then the final book. 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 Franny isn t Catholic It felt mired down in detail, as well it was like a reference to the time period was shoehorned into every paragraph.I felt like I ve seen every character especially the groovy older sister several other places People are excited about the cigarette smoking mom didn t they read The Green Glass Sea Also, too many secondary characters in general wait, which one is Denise Dubose and which is Judy James etc I thought it rather odd that the author used the real names of her childhood classmates and made up characters for them Especially the ones that aren t very nice I think the book is needlessly confusing While it s pretty obvious to the adult reader what the older sister is getting involved in, I doubt it would be to the child reader Whether still not having any information about this at the end of the book would bother kids or not, I can t say, but I feel like when I was a kid I d be all wait, what about the big secret what was going on who is Ebenezer did I miss a chapter in there Then there s the issue of the documentary material As others have mentioned, the longer historical biographical passages really took me out of the story sometimes they were interesting than what was going on in the plot And as others have also mentioned, most of the song lyrics were extracted and placed in such a way that if one didn t know the song, and or the significance of the picture on the same page any meaning was lost Some of the material I liked the photographs, mostly, and the quotes from the preparedness film although that was overdone by at least half and the quotes from Kennedy s speech From reading what others say, I gather the purpose is supposed to be that we feel like we re Right There With Franny, immersed in the early sixties But this didn t work for me for instance, there are several references to the death of President Kennedy, which doesn t occur within the time frame of the book Franny is into Kennedy, of course, and she doesn t know he s about to be assassinated, yet the reader does The adult reader already knows that, of course, and probably most of the child readers do as well But the within book consciousness of Kennedy s eventual death destroys the immediacy that might have been provided by the documentary stuff.Reading this and it was a struggle to finish I think it s overlong in general, especially at the climax , a similarity I couldn t identify kept niggling at me I finally realized toward the end that I was being reminded of books that did something similar but, to my mind, did it better don t laugh, but it s the American Girl books I haven t read one in twenty years or so and was bordering on too old for them when they came out, but still enjoyed them mildly These also had have documentary material in them, at the end I enjoyed poring over these as much as I enjoyed the thin plotlines But I remember that it was fun having them at the end and finding out the rest of the story of the things mentioned in the text.This book is fictionalized memoir I don t know to what extent and the other book it reminded me of a great deal was Judy Blume s excellent Starring Sally J Freedman as Herself I m not a particular Blume fan, but that book works in historical references naturally and has to me a engaging plot it feels story and character driven, not historical reference driven.Comments on anything anyone disagrees with in my review are, as always, welcomed.Earlier I m impatient with this book, which is feeling like nothing but a baby boomer nostalgia piece I doubt I d continue if it weren t being Newberyed about. 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 that Frannie, the main character, was an unreliable narrator I still don t quite get why her teacher skips her to read in Social Studies and why her mother seems so uncaring and unconcerned about Frannie s fight and problems with her friend Wiles also gives Frannie a few quirks and habits that are mentioned repeatedly, to the point where I wondered if Frannie was supposed to be presented as having some kind of social disorder Frannie constantly telegraphs her unspoken thoughts to others Simple things like stop or thank you A writing quirk or a character quirk Frannie is also obsessed with her headbands, which I think reveals that she is a 5th grader who hasn t quite matured into one who realizes how she fits into the world This was a long read and I enjoyed the historical aspects of it I did not, however, particularly connect with Frannie and her somewhat manic or compulsive way of seeing the world Many of my Goodreads friends seemed to love this book, particularly the audio version, and I recognize that there are a lot of strengths to the work Me though This wasn t the right kind of historical fiction for me to enjoy. 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 hard, or throw you against a tree It s such a big explosion, it can smash in buildings and knock signboards over and break windows all over town But if you duck and cover you will be much safer Readers of Countdown will time travel back to 1962, experiencing an era of growing pains, conflicting ideologies, rumors of wars, pop culture, and the testing of innocence A time when the Pledge of Allegiance AND the Lord s Prayer were recited every morning in public schools across America Nancy Drew mysteries were best sellers It s a Wonderful World and Itsy Bitsty Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini were top forty hits John F Kennedy was president And Martin Luther King rallied peacefully for Civil Rights Yes I am I m a square, in my Buster Brown Shoes and plastic headbands with my Nancy Drews But you know what, Margie You re mean And that s worse I absolutely LOVE this book for a gazillion reasons The story is captivating Franny s interaction with her embarrassing family and her thought to be friends is classic coming of age chaos personified What s worse your best friend doesn t feel like your best friend any, or the whole neighborhood thinks your family is an embarrassment There s a good bit of suspense, counterbalanced with humor The characters are realistic some touched with a bit of eccentricity Uncle Otts He s a hoot There are tangible qualities to nuances and atmosphere Simply put, Deborah Wiles writing is sheer joy to read and to live, and relive Beauty can t amuse you, but brainwork reading, writing, thinking can Helen Gurley Brown, as quoted in Countdown Last, but far from least, I tip my hat to Scholastic Press and their design style and editing teams Wow The insertion of newsreel tidbits, posters, song lyrics, key public figures bios, The 007 poster, Atomic preparedness jargon posters, numerous photographs Made this fictional memoir documentary story come alive with brilliant appeal I feel sorry for anybody who would let hate wrap them up Ain t no such thing as I can hate anybody and hope to see God s face Fannie Lou Hamer, as quoted in Countdown This book has the power to evoke dialogue for understanding between students and teachers, children and parents grandparents And it would make a great book club selection for youth and adults alike Ultimately, it s stellar reading entertainment.Absolutely, Countdown is on my 2015 Top Pick list 5 Stellar Stars. 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 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 lyrics of 1960s pop songs and ramrodded between gritty reminders of the Red Scare and the jarring, sterile, domestic bliss of that era s nuclear family Squeezed in between these collages is the story of Franny, a rather ordinary girl, whose world is slowly unraveling in the kind of pre adolescent ache most of us remember so well Her best friend, Margie, is drifiting farther away Her uncle s very public meltdowns are becoming an embarrassment Her revered older sister is spending time away from home with thinkers liberal college kids invested in civil rights Her mother is barely holding it together, acting severely toward Franny while trying to keep the family on even ground The only glimmer hope on Franny s horizon is Chris, the cute neighborhood boy who has returned after a year in Pakistan Taking place in the span of the week the very week that the United States is locked in a deadly staring contest with the USSR during the Cuban Missile Crisis Countdown attempts to parallel Franny s personal crises with that of the world s It works most of the time, only derailing when Wiles gets a little too artsy with her ideas What s with the unexpected poetry and lyrics interrupting the otherwise straightforward narrative It s weird for weird s sake Do we really need the verses and chorus of Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini interrupting the chapter about the Halloween party Not weird, but certainly extremely fascinating, are the brief, seeming inconsequential mini biographies sprinkled at the end of some chapters Readers meet Harry Truman, John F Kennedy, Pete Seeger, and best of all Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer, a figure I d never encountered in any history book These interpolations may be slightly confusing to a less mature reader, but many teens will see the parallel to both the story and its historical context Best of all is how cleverly evocative the book is Wiles has brought the early 1960s to life Every meticulous detail is rendered accessibly and lovingly you can almost smell the Old Spice wafting from Uncle Ott s body and the Bryl Cream in Daddy s hair Even details that aren t explicitly stated come to life on the page, particularly the scandalous life led by the newly divorced Mrs Hoffman Franny s mom s scorn for this woman is always lurking in the corners, but it never comes to life Masterful, to say the least Countdown is receiving quite a bit of Newbery buzz, and I don t think the praise is unwarranted The climax is a bit of a letdown, but the book itself is an intriguing piece of work It will not be an easy sell to most kids which, let s face it, with the exception of When You Reach Me, has been the de rigueur of Newbery recipients in the last ten or so years. &BOOK ↱ Countdown ⇔ 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 , 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 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 Featuring A Captivating Story Interspersed With Footage From , Award Winning Author 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 The secret to not being afraid is to understand what scares you This was a wonderful surprise of a book I don t typically like Middle grade it s just a little younger than I typically like to read but this one was complete wonderful I enjoyed this as an audio book but I honestly think you need to do both audio and have the physical book There are information tidbits at the beginning of every chapter almost that have information about culture and what was going on at the time of the book It adds to much depth the story in the audio book because they are almost like commercials with full voice change both male and female and sounds effects if it is talking about war and or bomb shelters It added such a depth to the story BUT the inserts are full color and detail in the book and shouldn t be missed.I also found it fascinating to see this time and this world through such young eyes I know little of this time it s my parents era and not mine and even then, they were kids and it s easy to forget how scary the first bomb raid drill at school must have been Her love for her grandpa but also her embarrassment and her struggles with her sister and her secrets and her sister s need for rebellion and her mother s tears and her father s fears and.all of it Was so well done and easier to handle through a young girl s eyes I loved her nightly letter in her mind of what she wanted to say.But I find this topic and these stories particularly relevant today as our children in the US are training monthly on full lock down drills for active school shooters and are learning first aid in school to possibly save themselves and others if injured. 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 do, it will certainly give them a vivid glimpse of that one moment in our nation s history The civil rights movement is very briefly touched on, and there s a hint that it may be the focus of a future book I don t recommend listening to the audio version I started that way and found it confusing Then, when I picked up the hardback instead, I realized why there s no way for a reader to make up for the visual effect of the between chapter pages.