Countdown by Deborah Wiles

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The story of a formative year in 12-year-old Franny Chapman's life, and the life of a nation facing the threat of nuclear war.

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.

About Deborah Wiles

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Deborah Wiles is the author of the picture book Freedom Summer and three novels: Love, Ruby Lavender; The Aurora County All-Stars; and Each Little Bird That Sings, a National Book Award finalist. She has vivid memories of ducking and covering under her school desk during air raid drills at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. She also sang in the Glee Club, was a champion speller, and hated Field Day. Deborah lives in Atlanta, Georgia. You can visit her on the web at
Published May 1, 2010 by Scholastic Press. 400 pages
Genres: Children's Books, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Countdown

Kirkus Reviews

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Here, Kirkus Children’s & Teen Editor Vicky Smith talks to Wiles about writing her book and putting together its fascinating documentary elements.

Jul 08 2011 | Read Full Review of Countdown

Kirkus Reviews

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Adding to the pressure are her college-student, activist older sister, who may be a spy, her aspiring-astronaut younger brother, who refuses to eat, her steely, chain-smoking mother, who has inexplicably burst into tears, her often-absent pilot father, now spending long days on base, and her PTSD...

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Publishers Weekly

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Franny's beloved older sister is keeping secrets and regularly disappearing, her mother's ordered household is upended by the increasingly erratic behavior of Uncle Otts (a WWI veteran), and Franny's relationship with her best friend Margie is on the brink as both vie for the same boy's attention.

Apr 26 2010 | Read Full Review of Countdown

The Washington Post

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Jul 01 2014 | Read Full Review of Countdown

Christian Science Monitor

Even the 45 r.p.m. record pictured on the book jacket of Deborah Wiles’s newest novel feels real – vinyl, black, shiny, and just begging young readers to come in and explore.

Jun 02 2010 | Read Full Review of Countdown


Franny’s story is compelling in its own right, but in Deborah Wiles, Wiles has added layers upon layers of additional meaning and context through the incorporation of dozens of pieces of original documentary sources --- photographs, song lyrics, quotes, advertisements, and more --- that would hav...

May 01 2010 | Read Full Review of Countdown

A Patchwork of Books

Note that quotes are from the ARC, and should be compared with the final book (which is available).Other Blog Reviews: Kiss the Book, Brooks Free Library Book of the Day, Teresa Konopka's Book Reviews.

Feb 05 2013 | Read Full Review of Countdown

New York Public Library

Many young adults may not know the story or rhyme of “Bert the Turtle” and how he taught a generation of students to duck and cover, but that is the very thing that this novel opens with.

Jan 18 2011 | Read Full Review of Countdown

Greenwich Library

Countdown was a book about a girl named Franny who lives in 1962.

Dec 10 2010 | Read Full Review of Countdown

JPL Book Reviews

The novel’s main character, 11-year-old Franny Chapman — who the author based on herself — is dealing with a failing friendship, her Uncle Otts’ embarrassing war flashbacks, her older sister’s disappearance, her saintly little brother’s inability to be anything less than perfect, and her feelings...

Jan 01 2012 | Read Full Review of Countdown

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