Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review: Countdown & Giveaway

Summary: It's 1962, and it seems everyone is living in fear. Twelve-year-old Franny Chapman lives with her family in Washington, DC, during the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Amidst the pervasive threat of nuclear war, Franny must face the tension between herself and her younger brother, figure out where she fits in with her family, and look beyond outward appearances. For Franny, as for all Americans, it's going to be a formative year. -- Scholastic

I am definitely on a roll with middle grade books lately, and what I'm finding is that you don't have to be a tween to appreciate these books. I recently read COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles and thought it was a fantastic book...a seriously fantastic book. I was blown away and I have been raving about this one to everyone who will listen to me (I even pulled it out at book club last month to show the other moms!)

COUNTDOWN is a very unique book and unlike any other middle grade books that I've read because it's actually a documentary novel. What this means is that the book is almost like a scrapbook because it includes photos, news clippings, advertisements, famous quotations, essays on historical figures, and much more. These items are incorporated into the story between chapters and are really an effective way of bringing the story and time period to life. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of these images, and I have a feeling that kids will feel the same way.

The documentary aspects of this novel definitely made this book stand out to me, but I'm pretty sure that the story itself would have had the same effect (the pictures just really just brought it to the next level.) COUNTDOWN was the story of a young girl named Frannie who lived outside Washington, DC because her father was air force pilot and stationed there (just like the author!) Frannie is a pretty typical girl with pretty typical issues; however, she is also living in a constant state of anxiety. Much of her fears are due to the political situations of the time.

COUNTDOWN takes place in the early 1960s -- a time when our country was in a state of turmoil over the fear of a nuclear bomb. There were air raid drills in our schools, bomb shelters, and the Bay of Pigs incident to name just a few reasons why the citizens of our country were living on the edge. There were multiple references to 1960s pop culture that many children will find interesting like the introduction of fast food and McDonald's, a new product called duct tape, popular songs like Runaway and Do You Love Me (you can find a playlist from songs mentioned in the book here.) What I found so amazing about this novel was how well the author juxtaposed what was going on in the United States with what was going on in Frannie's life. Both were living in a state of uncertainty and a tremendous amount of change.

I have been a fan of Deborah Wiles ever since our mother daughter book club read ever since we read EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS (my review.) I think EACH LITTLE BIRD was also an amazing book, and I think it lent itself to one of our best discussions ever. In fact, I have collected Ms. Wiles' other books and I am hoping to read them with my daughter soon. Ms. Wiles is an award-winning author, and I think she's definitely got another hit on her hands with COUNTDOWN. The book has already received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly.

Believe me, I'll be mentioning this book to our mother-daughter group because I think it's a very special book that deserves to be shared. Not only is it a great story about a very likable young girl, but it also gives wonderful insight into the history of our country. I can assure you it's the perfect book club discussion book because it a multi-layered book. Some of the the topics for discussion include war, racial discrimination, freedom, fear, types of governments, sibling rivalry, honesty, insecurity, family dynamics, mental health issues, friendship, forgiveness, change, and lastly hope! There is a reading guide coming soon to Ms. Wiles' website.

I was very excited to learn that COUNTDOWN is the first in a trilogy of books. Needless to say, I can't wait for the next two books. COUNTDOWN is truly a very special and unique book that I highly recommend for readers of all ages! I just loved it!

Thanks to Big Honcho Media for sending me a review copy of this novel.

Giveaway: I am very excited that I have two copies of COUNTDOWN to share with two very lucky readers! To enter, just leave a comment with a valid email address telling me why you want to read this book -- that's it. This contest will be open until Tuesday, June 8th at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to U.S. addresses only. Good luck!


Paula said...

I am totally overwhelmed by the books you read/review. I have signed on to participate in your summer reading challenge but have only bought the first book. I have yet to start it, becuase I'm totally involved in Laura Bush's biography.
I am keeping a running list of books to read, thanks to you.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I WANT this one! I read Deborah's blog and have been following her work on this trilogy.

I'm halfway through EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS and am a LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER fan.

Thanks for this review!

carolinestarr at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

I think this book sounds fascinating and I love books that are told in unusual formats - such as letters, notes, emails, scrapbooks, etc. To me, it's like discovering a treasure chest in an attic. I'd love to read this.


Katrina said...

I always love reading books by authors I have not read before...looks like a great read!

ykatrina at hotmail dot com

Beth said...

This looks great! I'm always interested in books set in the 60s. It was such an interesting time!

Please enter me!

bethsbookreviewblog2 AT gmail DOT com

traveler said...

Thanks for this wonderful feature and review which is captivating and special.Books set in this era are what I enjoy greatly. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Natalie said...

Great review. I want to win this giveaway bc I want to read this book then pass it along to my dear friend who adores this type of book!

Gwendolyn B. said...

I'd love to read this - your review is so enthusiastic! Plus, I was a little too young to be aware of these events when they actually took place and I've always been confused about exactly what happened. This book sounds like a great way for ME to catch up on a little history while sharing it with my nephew and fulfilling my Middle Grade Reading Challenge. Thanks for the interesting review and the chance to win a copy!

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

tetewa said...

I'm always looking for new authors to read, sounds good!

karenk said...

i actually like the cover of this book :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Hull.Margaret said...

I live in Florida and was just graduating from collge during this time period. I would love to read this book.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I am currently reading this book with my 9 year-old daughter and we are really enjoying it. There is so much history that it has engendered great discussions with her. My review will be going up middle of June. No need to enter me in the contest.

Carol M said...

I was fifteen in 1962 and I remember what it was like then. I would love to read this book and then pass it on to my grandchildren.
mittens0831 at aol dot com

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a perfect book to read with my 13-year-old daughter! Thanks for hosting the giveaway. :)

nnjmom at yahoo dot com

holdenj said...

What a great review and info on this super book! I'd love to win and read Countdown--the time period and way she mixes up the media sounds really interesting.

angie said...

The cover of this book caught my attention first. Then I read what it was about and now I can't wait to read this!

Ruth said...

I love to read books that have any kind of history in them.

Alyce said...

I want to enter for this book because I remember reading another review of it somewhere and thinking it would be a good read. So I was excited to see that you are giving it away.

akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

Patti J said...

This book looks incredible! I was born in the early 60's and would love to read this book with my 11 year old daughter. Thanks for having this giveaway!

Anita Yancey said...

I would like to read this book because I think it would be extremely interesting. I grew up during the 60's, and love to read about it. Please enter me. Thanks!


Dawn M. said...

The Cuban Missile Crisis was before I was born so I don't know much about it. Would love the chance to read this and find out more. Count me in, please!

Thanks! :0)
librarygrinch at gmail dot com

Christi S said...

I'm sitting here listening to/watching a documentary as I read this, so obviously I like documentary type novels. I also am a Reading Specialist, and I think this book might be enjoyable for some of my sixth and seventh graders! Thanks for the giveaway!
christis at gmail dot com

ossmcalc said...

After living through this time myself, I would love to be able to read such a great book. I can also see it being used in the middle grades history classroom. Please enter me into this giveaway.

Thank you,


minishoes1 said...

This sounds like a great read!I love to read books about what people overcome and it sounds like a book with lots of details. thanks! jacquecurl1(at)