Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

“Countdown” by Deborah Wiles

Scholastic, 2010

A nerdy yet spunky 12-year-old Franny is figuring out her way through confusing 1962. Is the end of the world at hand? Is her family going to die in the nuclear explosion sent by the Russians? Is her best friend going to hate her forever? Will the social studies teacher keep treating her like she’s invisible? And that neighbor kid the mere sight of whom causes Franny to have breathing problems — will he still like Franny by the end of the book? If she survives all her other troubles, that is?

Deborah Wiles is the acclaimed author of the amazing “Each Little Bird That Sings” (another touching middle-grade friendship story I would recommend to ANYONE!)

While Nan Marino’s “Neil Armstrong is My Uncle” is lighter on the setting, Deborah Wiles’ “Countdown” integrates the 1960s culture and politics very tightly into her characters’ lives. In her capable hands this doesn’t feel artificial. In so many ways the setting is who these characters are. As I read, the language and the fear and the absurdity of human experience as seen through the lens of the 1960s worldview penetrated my own vision. Oh, and thanks to Deborah, once I finished reading I would not stop humming the 60s songs. Especially Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini.” That darn song is still in my head. (So is the party scene in the novel during which the song is played — I can still hear those kids giggling!)


I have to admit that the concept of the documentary novel didn’t excite me. I like to sink my teeth into the character immediately, and at first I had trouble doing that with the distractions of photographs and quotes from TV shows and things like that. I was seriously considering putting the book away. I was disappointed, remembering my incredible experience with Deborah’s “Each Little Bird That Sings.” Something kept pulling me along, though, something just wouldn’t allow me to put the book down. Before I knew it, I was on page 200. Once I got over the concept, I swept through the book. Before I knew it, I was fiercely rooting for Franny. I was in love with her, and her nasty ex-friend, and her tough general of a mother, and her little brother, Mr. Perfect “Saint Drew” who couldn’t tell a lie. By the time I was done, I knew I finished reading another Deborah Wiles masterpiece.

P.S. As I am typing this, I can hear my six-year-old daughter hum from upstairs, “She was afraid to come out of the locker, she was as nervous as she could be . . . ”

Ugh. That song is the stickiest!!!

P.P.S. Coming up sometime this summer (I hope!): an interview with the amazing Deborah Wiles herself! 🙂


June 27, 2010 - Posted by | Book Impressions | , , , ,


  1. I love the cover and concept of this book, so it’s already on my wish list. I didn’t know that there were graphics in it. The Cold War has always interested me.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | June 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Then you will REALLY love it!! 🙂 I am thinking, maybe another giveaway soon . . . 🙂

      Comment by Katia Raina | June 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. […]  https://katiaraina.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/countdown-by-deborah-wiles/ […]

    Pingback by Deborah Wiles: Documenting the Decade of “What?” and “Wow!” « MAGIC MIRROR | August 15, 2010 | Reply

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