When the Whistle Blows

When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton

Every once in awhile a debut novel takes your breath away.  This is one of those novels.

Jimmy Cannon’s life is surrounded by trains.  His bedroom is right by the tracks, his father works for the railroad, and Jimmy plans to work the railroad himself as soon as he possibly can.  But Jimmy does not want to be like his father who focuses on rules.  Set in a West Virginia town during the era of steam trains in the 1940s, readers will happily follow Jimmy as he merrily breaks many of the rules.  From Halloween night to boyhood scrapes, this book has a timeless feel.

Slayton writes with a spirit and style that reads like a classic novel.  Offering a complex relationship of a boy and his father, she lightens the novel through the scenes that define Jimmy’s boyhood.  Every reader, boy or girl, will be able to relate to the escapades, enjoy laughing out loud about the close calls, and bite their nails when the tension gets thick.  This is a many layered book that teachers will look forward to reading in their classrooms.  There is so much here to discuss and yet it is so easy to read, understand and relate to.  It is frankly a masterpiece of ease and complexity not often seen in children’s books.

If there is one book you are going to read aloud to 4th and 5th graders this year, it should be this one.  Highly recommended, this should be a Newbery contender this year.  Appropriate for ages 10-14.

Reviewed from copy provided by publisher.

Check out Fran Cannon Slayton’s own blog.

Also reviewed by BookDads, Reviewed Here First, Reading, Writing, Ruminating, Susan VanHecke, WriterJenn, Charlotte’s Library, Confessions of a Bibliovore, Becky’s Book Reviews, Through the Wardrobe, The Reading Zone, Underage Reading, Sarah Miller, 100 Scope Notes, and Into the Wardrobe.

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