COUNTDOWN

Just as 11-year-old Franny Chapman squabbles with her once-best friend in their neighborhood near Andrews Air Force Base, outside of Washington, D.C., President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev are also at odds. Franny’s spot-on “Heavens to Murgatroyd” dialogue captures the trepidation as the world holds its breath during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. 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-suffering, World War I–veteran Uncle Otts, who’s digging up the front yard to build a bomb shelter. Wiles’s “documentary novel,” based on her own childhood memories and the first in The Sixties Project trilogy, has a striking scrapbook feel, with ingeniously selected and placed period photographs, cartoons, essays, song lyrics, quotations, advertisements and “duck and cover” instructions interspersed through the narrative. References to duct tape (then newly invented), McDonald’s and other pop culture lend authenticity to this phenomenal story of the beginnings of radical change in America. (historical note, author’s note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-10605-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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A winningly authentic, realistic and heartwarming family drama.

THE PAPER COWBOY

A family crisis pushes a 12-year-old wannabe cowboy living outside Chicago in 1953 to resort to bullying and damaging pranks.

Since his baby sister’s birth, Tommy’s normally moody mother’s been like a “sky full of dark clouds.” When his older sister’s seriously burned, Tommy’s left to cope with her daily newspaper route, his increasingly abusive mother, his overwhelmed father and his younger sisters. Tommy reacts by bullying classmates, especially a shy, overweight new boy at school named Sam. When he’s caught stealing from Sam’s father’s store, Tommy retaliates by planting a copy of a communist newspaper found during a community paper drive in the store. After the owner’s accused of being a communist and the store’s boycotted, Tommy realizes he’s acting like an outlaw instead of a cowboy, and he tries to find the real communist in the neighborhood, leading to surprising discoveries and the help his family desperately needs. Speaking in the first person, Tommy reveals himself as a good-hearted, responsible kid who’s temporarily lost his moral compass. Effective use of cowboy imagery allows Tommy to step up like his hero, Gary Cooper in High Noon, and do the right thing. Period detail and historical references effectively capture the anti-communist paranoia of the McCarthy era.

A winningly authentic, realistic and heartwarming family drama. (author’s note, photos) (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-16328-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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A splendidly exciting and accessible historical adventure.

GOLD RUSH GIRL

Tory encounters the independence and adventure she longs for in the untamed city of San Francisco in 1849.

Thirteen-year-old narrator Victoria Blaisdell, known to her family as Tory, lives a comfortably privileged life in mid-19th-century Providence, Rhode Island. She is frustrated and constrained by the influence of her maternal aunt, Lavinia, who believes that girls are to take care of boys and should be educated only at home. But when Tory’s father loses his position and wages and decides to seek gold in California, Tory stows away on the ship that will take him and her fretful younger brother, Jacob, on the seven-month journey to San Francisco. There, Tory finds work to keep herself and Jacob going while their father heads off to the gold fields. When Jacob is kidnapped to be a cabin boy for a ship heading out of the Golden Gate, Tory must appeal to her new friend Thad from Maine and to Sam, a wary young black man from Sag Harbor, New York, to help her navigate an underworld of gambling, rogues, and abandoned ships. Sam and Señor Rosales, who runs the cafe near Tory and Jacob’s tent, are the only nonwhite principal characters. Tory is the only girl. Avi evokes Gold Rush–era San Francisco through Tory’s eyes with empathy and clarity while keeping the action lively.

A splendidly exciting and accessible historical adventure. (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0679-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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