The cover of Countdown caught my attention. When I quickly flipped through it, I saw old ads about a turtle named Bert who ducks and covers from atomic bombs, a photograph of President Kennedy as well as photographs with slogans. Wiles already had me and I had yet to read a word.
Its 1962, many Americans are worried about a nuclear war. I don't remember learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis (maybe I was absent that day) even though it was a major event in U.S. history. Countdown centers around that time of uncertainty. Like every other student 11 yr old Franny Chapman is learning to duck and cover like Bert the turtle just in case.
I absolutely loved Franny's voice, pure in its believably. She is a wonderfully realistic character. Franny is growing up during a time of change and her life must go on. Wiles has written a beautiful historical novel. Once, I started reading I didn't want to stop. The author easily explains the conflict between Russia, Cuba and the United States. For homework Franny is required to watch President Kennedy speech when he tells the country Cuba has missles.
The fear and tenison everyone feels can be felt through Wiles words. I was moved when the author took the time to make Cuba real and not simply a place to be feared. Franny's teacher Mrs. Rodriquez, tells her class about Cuba, the homeland of her husband.
Interspersed throughout are photographs, speeches and slogans of the time. Adding another dimension to the story. I found myself looking forward to these factual breaks. In 1962 many people were fighting for equality for all people in the U.S. Wiles addresses this as well. Frannie Lou Hamer story is featured. Franny's older sister Jo Ellen is working with CORE and SNCC organizations.
Countdown was entertaining, educational and a pleasure to read. I loved and highly recommend it. Franny Chapman is one of my favorite female protagonist of 2010. Read an excerpt