October Dawn – by Jim Walker (2001)

October Dawn

It’s late 1962, and Johnny Pera is at his parents’ home in Morro Beach, California for the first time in many years. His father is the head of an organized crime group on the West Coast, overseeing casinos in Las Vegas.

Johnny made the decision many years ago to separate himself from the family business. He also rejected the family’s Catholic background, choosing a Protestant church instead and becoming a minister. He married, had two kids, and then was widowed. His kids are teenagers now, but have never met their father’s relatives. But it’s Johnny’s parents’ 50th anniversary, and he takes the kids to meet their grandparents for the first time.

Continue reading “October Dawn – by Jim Walker (2001)”

Countdown – by Deborah Wiles (2010)

Countdown

This book, with its “historic fiction” sticker, caught my eye as I walked through my local library. The setting was one not often tackled – what the Cuban missile crisis was like for a kid in 1962. Frannie is 11 years, living with her family just outside the Andrews Air Force Base. Her father is a military pilot, her mother a  housewife, her brother Drew a science nerd, and her older sister Jo-Ellen a person of secrets. Uncle Otts, a traumatized World War II vet, also lives with them.

Life is normal until they start having air raid drills at school, and they see ads for family bomb shelters. Frannie is confused by some people telling her everything will be okay, and others believing that they could be blown to smithereens at any moment.

Mixed in with Frannie’s story are photos from 1962, quotes from President Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev,and civil service announcements. The addition of all these pictures make the story more real. It gives the reader a window to see what people were actually seeing in 1962. It was indeed a terrifying thirteen days.

Excerpt from page 201:

(Frannie speaking)
Was it just today that Margie and I had that terrible fight, that I threw up in Mr. Mitchell’s office, that Uncle Otts came home from the hospital, that Gale invited me to her party? All on the same day I found out that I might not live long enough to wake up in the morning? I’d better wrap up everything while I have a chance.

Excerpt from page 254:

“I know all about atoms,” says Drew. He turns his face to me. He’s crying. “Atoms are supposed to be our friends,” he hiccups. “I’m supposed to go to the moon! We’re supposed to use atoms for peace – it says so right here in this book! An atom is like a genie in a bottle, and we can use that genie to go into space and make new discoveries. But we’re making bombs to kill people! People who are made of atoms! It’s all in this book – protons, neutrons, electrons, Madame Curie, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, reactors and rockets and spaceships and stars and planets and the moon!”

Drew is overwrought.

“I’m never gonna get to the moon, because we’re all about to get blown up!”

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