Countdown by Deborah Wiles Audiobook Review

Book: Countdown by Deborah Wiles, Book #1 of The Sixties Trilogy, Listening Library, published January 1, 2011

Audiobook Info:  Middle Grade, Library audiobook,  Audio length: 7 hours 20 minutes, read by Emma Galvin.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

More Info: Audible | Goodreads

Armchair Audies Category: Children’s Titles Ages 8-12

Countdown takes place in 1962 and is the story of 11-year-old Franny Chapman. Franny is a middle child living near Andrews Air Force base, and she often feels overlooked. She loves to read aloud, but her teacher never seems to pick her to read for the class. She’s fighting with her friend Margie, her uncle is losing his grip on reality, and her sister is mysteriously absent for long periods of time. And as if it’s not hard enough being 11 already, the Cuban Missile Crisis has everyone in a panic, and Franny fears for her life.

The book Countdown is a documentary novel, and the printed book is scrapbook-like and includes important visual references from 1962 to enhance the reading experience. The audiobook experience is just as rich, however, and includes snippets of speeches, “duck and cover” instructions, presidential biographies, the sound of a typewriter, radio dial, bomb explosions and more.  It really feels like you are there in 1962, with all the cultural references of the time. It is one of the more unique and entertaining audiobook experiences I’ve had.

It’s easy to identify with Franny and understand her worries about the world. Even though the book takes place 50 years ago and times have changed a lot, some things are still the same.  Friendship conflicts still exist, and fears about the future. Franny is a sweet, sensitive girl who loves Nancy Drew mysteries, and playing her sister Jo Ellen’s 45’s, and is excited to attend her first boy-girl party. The author captures the feeling of that age very well, and made me remember my own time in fifth grade, and I was a worrier like Franny so could definitely relate to that.

One of my favorite YA audiobook narrators, Emma Galvin, reads the audiobook. Her voice works well for a variety of different stories, and again she shines with her performance here. She is believable as the voice of Franny, and gets to the heart of the character. Galvin conveys Franny’s kind and earnest nature and her voice is suited for the time frame. The character differentiations are subtle yet distinct, from Franny’s mother to her Uncle Otts, to her crush Chris. Even without the added bells and whistles found in the audiobook, her performance stands out.

Countdown is the first book in the Sixties trilogy, but it is a complete and satisfying story on it’s own.  This book is a lot of fun, educational, and entertaining for both kids and adults.  Though it’s meant for a middle grade audience, I think anyone who enjoys historical fiction or contemporary YA would enjoy this book. I recommend listening to the audio format to hear the sound effects and bonus historical material to get a feel for the era.

I listened to this audiobook as a participant in the Armchair Audies. My goal is to listen to all 5 of the middle grade audiobooks nominated for the Audie award, and you can see all the nominees here.


8 thoughts on “Countdown by Deborah Wiles Audiobook Review

  1. VeganYANerds says:

    This sounds like a lot of fun, I love reading about the 60s so I am going to look out for this!

    1. Lucy says:

      It is an interesting time frame, isn’t it? Hope you enjoy Countdown if you get the chance to read it.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I loved this book and print and wondered how it would translate on audio. I’m glad it’s just as good. I need to check to see if the next book in the trilogy is out.

    1. Lucy says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the book, Kathy! I don’t see the sequel listed on goodreads – hopefully it’s still in the works. There’s an interview with the author on her site and she says the next book will be called The Freedom Summer and it’s about Sunny, an 11 year old girl growing up in Greenwood, Mississippi.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    This sounds pretty neat! I like the idea of having audio snippets from the era, it sort of lends an authenticity to the story which is neat. I will have to keep my eyes out for it, especially because I have the best luck with short audiobooks!

  4. poetrytoprose says:

    I have yet to listen to an audiobook (soon!), but I am loving the sound of this one, especially with the extra bits of audio it gives with the speeches, bombing instructions, etc. I feel like those types of details really wrap you into the story further. I definitely want to look into this book!

  5. This one sounds really worthwhile. I’ve seen it a few times at the library but never picked it up because I hadn’t heard much either way. I LOVE when audiobook producers put snippets of relevant music, news, advertisements (if they are part of the actual book),etc. into the production. (e.g. Feed by M.T. Anderson) I’m definitely going to check this out.

  6. […] Grade: Countdown by Deborah Wiles, narrated by Emma Galvin, and The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, narrated by Julia […]

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