Reviews for Whistling Past the Graveyard

Booklist Reviews 2013 April #2
The South on the eve of the civil rights movement, as seen through the eyes of this novel's plucky nine-year-old narrator. Starla Claudelle lives in Mississippi with her stern grandma. Her daddy is away working on an oil rig. Her mama has gone to Nashville to be a star, so Starla decides to head there when she gets herself in trouble one too many times. She's offered a ride by a black woman named Eula, who has with her a white baby found abandoned on the steps of a church. Eula takes Starla and the baby home, but violence forces them back on the road with no money and a truck about to break down. During their long and sometimes perilous trip, Starla sees firsthand what it's like to be the wrong color in a segregated society, and her keen sense of injustice and need for love help her create a bond with Eula that transcends any barriers. It's not easy to keep such a young narrator convincing for more than 300 pages, and for the most part, author Crandall manages it well. Readers will take to Starla and be caught up in her story. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 June #2
Crandall (Sleep No More, 2010, etc.) delivers big with a coming-of-age story set in Mississippi in 1963 and narrated by a precocious 9-year-old. Due in part to tradition, intimidation and Jim Crow laws, segregation is very much ingrained into the Southern lifestyle in 1963. Few white children question these rules, least of all Starla Caudelle, a spunky young girl who lives with her stern, unbending grandmother in Cayuga Springs, Miss., and spends an inordinate amount of time on restriction for her impulsive actions and sassy mouth. Starla's dad works on an oil rig in the Gulf; her mother abandoned the family to seek fame and fortune in Nashville when Starla was 3. In her youthful innocence, Starla's convinced that her mother's now a big singing star, and she dreams of living with her again one day, a day that seems to be coming more quickly than Starla's anticipated. Convinced that her latest infraction is about to land her in reform school, Starla decides she has no recourse but to run away from home and head to Nashville to find her mom. Ill prepared for the long, hot walk and with little concept of time and distance, Starla becomes weak and dehydrated as she trudges along the hot, dusty road. She gladly accepts water and a ride from Eula, a black woman driving an old truck, and finds, to her surprise, that she's not Eula's only passenger. Inside a basket is a young white baby, an infant supposedly abandoned outside a church, whom Eula calls James. Although Eula doesn't intend to drive all the way to Nashville, when she shows up at her home with the two white children, a confrontation with her husband forces her into becoming a part of Starla's journey, and it's this journey that creates strong bonds between the two: They help each other face fears as they each become stronger individuals. Starla learns firsthand about the abuse and scare tactics used to intimidate blacks and the skewed assumption of many whites that blacks are inferior beings. Assisted by a black schoolteacher who shows Eula and Starla unconditional acceptance and kindness, both ultimately learn that love and kinship transcend blood ties and skin color. Young Starla is an endearing character whose spirited observations propel this nicely crafted story. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 February #2

The child of teenage parents, nine-year-old Starla is being raised by fierce grandmother Mamie, who's worried that Starla will turn out like her no-good mother, off in Nashville trying to become a star. When Starla runs away, worried that she will be punished for an infraction, she's offered a ride by a black woman who's herself on the run. The result: Starla comes to understand what segregation looks like in the Deep South, circa 1963. From a RITA Award winner; another novel pushed at ALA Midwinter.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 June #1

Crandall's (Pitch Black; Magnolia Sky) latest novel features the tender tale of a plucky nine-year-old narrator in 1963 Mississippi. While Starla Claudelle's teenage mother is pursuing the ghosts of fame and fortune in Nashville with her boyfriend of the week, Starla's father keeps in touch through a monthly check and occasional visits. Every time she misbehaves, her caretaker grandmother warns Starla that she will become like her "no account" mother. Fearing that her grandmother will make good on her threats of reform school, Starla heads for Nashville to bring her family back together. Along the way, she meets Eula, an African American woman who suffers many heartaches at the hands of her abusive husband. On the journey to Nashville, Eula and Starla realize the true meaning of family, the strength we carry within ourselves, and the power of love to transform a life. VERDICT Crandall threads historical detail throughout the book as the struggles of the civil rights movement are vividly portrayed through Eula's difficulties as well as those of minor characters. Although the novel lacks the freshness of Kathryn Stockett's The Help and Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, Crandall's young narrator captures the reader's heart, and fans of those books may enjoy this title. [See Prepub Alert 1/25/13.]--Julia M. Reffner, Fairport, NY

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 May #2

Known for her romantic suspense novels, Crandall takes a fumbling step into book club-style women's fiction with a derivative, if well-intentioned, Civil Rights-era bildungsroman. Stubborn, sassy, nine-year-old Starla Jane Claudelle lives with her grandmother Mamie in smalltown Mississippi. Her father works on an oil rig and her mother has been absent since Starla was three, seeking her fortune as a singer in Nashville. After a series of misbehaviors, Starla runs away, fearing her grandmother's discipline and hoping for a reunion with her mother. Along the way, she meets Eula, an African-American woman who has taken custody of a white baby, much to her abusive, alcoholic husband's dismay. Starla and Eula soon find themselves on the run together, dodging one-dimensional racists and receiving assistance from wise and accepting African-Americans. Starla's fiery independence makes her a likeable narrator, which compensates somewhat for the underdeveloped adult characters and unbelievable plot points. While Starla's story lacks the elegance of The Secret Life of Bees or the emotional intensity of The Dry Grass of August, fans of simple feel-good coming-of-age tales set in the 1960s such as Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will enjoy the ride. Agent: Jennifer Schober, Spencerhill. (July)

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