Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book Review: When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton

Book: When the Whistle Blows
Author: Fran Cannon Slayton
Published: on shelves today

Jimmy Cannon has always thought that he would live out his life in the town where he was born--Rowlesburg, West Virginia. He would drop out of high school and work on the railroad alongside his dad, his brothers, and all the other men in his town.

His father keeps telling him to look further, that the world is changing and he'd better change along with it unless he means to die right along with the railroads. Jimmy resists with all his might, believing that if he can just follow the plan, his life will continue unchanged. But in the years immediately following WWII, America is charging headlong toward the future, and it's all too easy to get left behind.

In six short stories, each taking place on Halloween (which also happens to be his father's birthday), Jimmy grows from boy to man, struggling to accept a dying town and a changing world, and to understand the most important person in his life.

I got this ARC in a giveaway from 100 Scope Notes (thanks!) and wow, what a book. The short-story format makes it ideal for reluctant readers who falter through longer narratives. At the same time, the strong undercurrent of a boy's complex and ever-altering relationship with his father keeps you turning to the next story. Slayton tells her stories simply and honestly, but never shorts us the emotional punch. Translation? I cried. But don't make the mistake of dismissing this as a three-hanky weeper--there's also humor, suspense, and a glimpse into an America long gone. Not to mention cabbage bombs. Hey, it is Halloween.

The cover might make this a hard sell, but the right kid will remember this book a long time.

1 comment:

Scope Notes said...

I liked your review. I agree with you on all points, including your comments on the cover - I'm afraid to say that that might make things a bit tougher for this title to make it off the shelf. A great book, however, so I hope that teachers and librarians push it.