Because I am a HUGE Deborah Wiles fan, I had to have an ARC of her new book, COUNTDOWN. I have been reading so much about it and once it ended up on Betsy's very early Newbery prediction list at Fuse #8, I knew I had to have it. So, Sally at Cover to Cover let the Central Ohio begging blogger group borrow her copy. Even though I don't want to let it go because I LOVE it, I will be passing it along to Bill at Literate Lives tomorrow. I hate the fact that I'll have a few weeks without the book.
This book takes place in the early 1960s, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And although the setting and history are critical to the story, the real story is about Franny and her family. (It isn't often that I read a book with a main character named Frances, either!). As we have come to expect from Wiles, the characters are the best. Such amazing characters. Such amazing relationships and such real issues.
The brilliance in this book is the way that Wiles embedded primary source documents throughout the story of Franny. She embedded real words, photos, and more at the perfect point in the story. When I first looked through the book, I thought they might be distracting but they are placed perfectly and the pieces she's chosen help you understand exactly what the characters are going through and what those days felt like to people living through it. It is really brilliant. I didn't know much about the Cuban Missile Crisis but my thinking is that if our kids could learn history in this way, it would make so much more sense.
This book is up there as one of my favorite books of all time. If I were in a 5th or 6th grade classroom, it would definitely be on my read aloud list.
There is so much to love about the books. For me, as always, it was primarily a great story about great characters that I came to love. But the brilliance in craft was key. The documentary style pieces helped to create an understanding that readers could not have done otherwise.
The even better news than the fact that this is an amazing book is that I read that it is the first in a trilogy about the 60s. I just can't wait.
Really, this is a must, must, must read. I can so understand why Betsy included it on her Newbery list so early in the year. I am not alone in my love for this book. It has already received 3 starred reviews (Kirkus, Booklist, and the Hornbook)!!! And Monica at Educating Alice gave it a great review on her blog too. Really, go preorder one right now.