Reviews for When the Whistle Blows

School Library Journal Reviews 2010 May

Gr 6-10--These seven coming-of-age stories in the life of Jimmy Cannon all take place on All Hallow's Eves in a small West Virginia railroad town, from 1943 through 1949. The date is significant because it is the birthday of Jimmy's father, a railroad man, and the most important figure in his life. Fran Cannon Slayton's novel ((Philomel, 2009) captures the youthful joy and excitement in Jimmy's voice when he initially talks about the "iron horse." He wants to work on the railroad when he grows up and ignores his father's predictions about the coming of diesel trains. As the stories come full circle, we learn that his father's predictions have come true. We first meet Jimmy when he is in the seventh grade and up to all kinds of pranks with his "platoon" of buddies. In subsequent stories, Jimmy's father outmaneuvers the school principal who doesn't understand the importance of the first day of hunting season, and Jimmy experiences a train accident and witnesses an accidental death on the tracks. Each character's voice reflects the emotion of the experience described. Peter Berkrot does a brilliant job of personalizing each of the men in Jimmy's life and gives listeners a vivid sense of the boy's maturation over the years. These tales about life in small-town America during a bygone era provide a memorable listening experience.--Edith Ching, Washington Latin Public Charter School, DC

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