Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

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Countdown

Deborah Wiles
Fiction  Series
For ages 9 to 12
Scholastic, 2010   ISBN: 978-0545106054

Franny’s world is a little confusing right now. The Cold War is heating up, and there is a lot of fear in the air. Franny, like all the children in her school, has been taught what to do if a warning siren starts to wail. She has to “duck and cover,” and if she does this, she will be safe during a nuclear attack. Or at least that is what everyone tells her.

One day, and without warning, Franny’s mostly normal life starts to unravel. Franny’s Uncle Otts cracks up in front of the whole neighborhood, and he has to go to the hospital for the while. Franny loves Uncle Otts and she hates to think that he might be losing his mind.

Then Franny has a terrible fight with her best friend Margie, and Franny’s sister, who is in college but who lives at home, leaves the house with a suitcase. No one tells Franny why Jo Ellen is not sleeping in her room anymore.

On October 22nd, 1962, President Kennedy tells the country that the Russians plan to send nuclear missiles to Cuba. Franny’s mother and Uncle Otts start turning a room downstairs into a bomb shelter, and Franny’s little brother Drew gets so frightened that he won’t eat, or play, or do any of the things that he usually does. Franny does not blame Drew for behaving this way. After all, how can you behave as if nothing is the matter if you might be blown to kingdom come at any time?

In this extraordinary book, Deborah Wiles tells the story of a very ordinary young girl who is trying to deal with everyday kinds of problems like fights with friends and troubles with family members. At the same time she is trying to come to terms with the  political uncertainty that is going on all around her. The author gives her readers a real feel for what it was like to live in the 1960’s by providing them with articles and photographs that tell the story of that time. There are mini biographies of people like the Kennedys, the lyrics from songs that were popular in those years, reproductions of posters and advertisements, and so much more. This material is mixed in with the Franny’s story, and it gives the narrative a very distinctive travel-back-in-time feel.

This is the first book in a new trilogy.

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