I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you, but I was only lukewarm on the previous books of Deborah Wiles, namely LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER and EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. Those books just weren’t my cup of tea (too character-driven, too leisurely paced, and too cute for their own good; in short, too girly). So I didn’t expect to be won over by her new book, COUNTDOWN. But I enjoyed it in spite of myself, especially the second half. I’m not sure that it’s ready to leap onto my own personal Newbery ballot, but I certainly think it deserves a place in the conversation.
This book is billed as a documentary novel and includes many features we’re more accustomed to seeing in nonfiction books–photographs, captions, sidebars. Many people have speculated that these will hurt its chances, but I don’t see it that way. The ancillary material supports the novel, but is not the star of the book (in the way that the illustrations of THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET clearly were). The committee ought to be able to separate the textual contribution of Wiles from the graphic elements of the book design.