- Published: New York : Scholastic 2010.
- Year Published: 2010
- Edition: 1st ed.; Uncorrected proof.
- Description: 377,  p. : ill., maps ; 21 cm.
- Language: English
- Format: Book
- Lexile: 800
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Available Copies: Downtown 1st Floor, Pittsfield Youth
Eleven-year-old Franny deals with the challenges of growing up against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Interspersed with the text are photographs, news items, and advertisements from the early sixties.
Reviews & Summaries
Wiles has captured the cultural environment of 1962 for modern children in a possibly unparalled way. Through Franny and her friends and family we experience firsthand the terror that the Cold War wreaked on average American citizens. And, although today’s children probably haven’t even heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis, it’s apparent how close disaster actually was. Because we care so deeply for her characters, Wiles never has to preach to get her pacifist message across. At the same time, the American Forces are represented with dignity and respect. Franny’s is a military family. Her father is employed by the Air Force and her grandfather served during World War I. Wiles herself comes from a military family and is undoubtedly drawing from her own experiences when she portrays the sacrifices career military make for their country’s good. But the implied questions remain, Why do we still require these sacrifices of our citizens? Why is peace so hard to achieve? Of course there aren’t any answers. Still, it’s never too early for the next generation to begin wrestling with these questions.
Wiles does not document 1962 only through her narrative. Archival photographs, accompanied by facts, quotes, and snatches of popular song lyrics, are interspersed between chapters. The result is a truly holistic approach, plunging the reader headlong into the turbulence of the time period. In-between Franny’s story, we witness the rise of the Civil Rights and the feminist movements, the escalation of fighting in Vietnam, the preparations for the Space Race, and the onslaught of propaganda regarding nuclear war. Biographies of important figures (Harry Truman, The Kennedys, Pete Seeger, and Fannie Lou Hamer), written in a child’s didactic voice (are they Franny’s school reports?) are also present. They impart important information in an innocent voice that, for example, contrasts the staggering totals of Vietnam War dead with the fact that “The middle initial S in Harry S Truman’s name stood for nothing.” The only snag in Wiles’ non-traditional approach regards her intended audience. Although the ironic juxtaposition of song lyrics with period photographs is clever to an adult's eye, I agree with New York children's librarian Betsy Bird and believe that the pairing won't be understood in the same way by children. It's unlikely that young people will connect the words "You'll Never Walk Alone," which looms beneath a picture of school children "ducking and covering" under their desks, with the title of the popular Rogers and Hammerstein hit from Carousel or its out of context sentiment. But, as a positive, it could be an opportunity for educators to discuss the notion of “irony” with students and how Wiles is using it within her supplementary materials.
A historical note on the Cuban Missile Crisis appears after the novel’s conclusion. Wiles has also provided a list of suggested resources (books and websites), as well as photo credits.
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