Monday, October 18, 2010


I started reading Middle Grade again. I love Middle Grade because it was at this age I fell in love with reading. I haven't been disappointed.

This weekend I finished Countdown by Deborah Wiles. It is a semi-autobiographical book about an eleven year-old girl, Franny Chapman, living outside of Washington D.C. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Deborah Wiles also lived outside of Washington D.C. when she was eleven and during the Cuban Missile Crisis.) It is the first of three in the "Sixties Trilogy."

This book has a very unusual format. It's been called a "documentary novel" because interwoven throughout the story are little reports on the Presidents, popular culture, and issues of the time. And every so often the story will be interrupted by a series of media excerpts. It kind of felt like little commercial breaks with newscasts: quotes from political figures, pieces of songs, LOTS of pictures, reminders to "duck and cover."

I LOVED the concept, and I hope to see more historical fiction written this way. It was a very good way of giving the reader another view into the story's world. I felt like I was living the Cuban Missile Crisis right along with Franny.

The story could have stood alone without all of this, however. Deborah Wiles really painted life for an eleven year-old, and helped me remember what it felt like to be eleven...even if I didn't live in fear of a bomb being dropped on my world:

I remembered being SO ANGRY when I fought with friends. I remembered feeling shame and disgrace before a parent when I'd done wrong. I remembered vying for acceptance among my grade-school peers. I remembered wanting to please a teacher. I remembered wanting to be just like my older sister.

The story is full of all the ups and downs of the beginning of Franny's fifth-grade life. And you actually see the Cuban Missile Crisis through her eyes-not an adult's eyes. I think it is very real-to-life how a child would have perceived the threat.

I only blog book reviews if I REALLY liked the book, so this comes highly recommended. Go read it!


  1. Great review! This sounds like a wonderful book (and how awesome is that cover???).

    I just finished reading "Leaving Atlanta" which is written in much the same way, about three kids (and from their point of view) as they try to be kids during the time period of the Atlanta Child Murders. I don't know that I'd categorize it as MG (especially since it has one or two serious uses of foul language) but it feels like you are seeing that time through the eyes of those 5th grade kids.

  2. That sounds like a great book. I don't think I've heard of this, so thanks for the info. I'll have to check it out. I love MG too.

  3. Awesome review. The historical facts interwoven with the fictional story sounds really interesting.

    BTW: I thought of MG book idea. I'll have to send you the hook line I came up with.

  4. Sounds like a fun read. I'm putting that on my TBR list.

  5. Wow. TOALLY my thing! Thanks SO much! I'm curious to see what else she comes up with.