When the Whistle Blows ~ Fran Cannon Slayton

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whistleThis is the perfect book to read now that Halloween is fast approaching. Trains are an integral part of this book which is another plus for me, because I come from a train family, too. My grandfather was a brakeman and a conductor and his brother’s were all crossing tenders and brakemen. My father has always been into trains and has fond memories of riding the trains. I’ve always liked trains myself. There is something about riding a train that settles me. Unless it’s a commuter train the week of school vacation when the circus has just let out. I always find that the rhythm of the rails puts me at ease and if I were to ever write the Great American Novel, it would be on a train crossing from when end of the country to another. But, I digress. When the Whistle Blows is a fantastic book and there are many glowing reviews out there, so I thought I’d try something a little different.

10 Reasons to Read When the Whistle Blows

1. Each chapter takes place on Halloween from the time the protagonist, Jimmy Cannon is a boy until he becomes a young man. How cool is that? 10 points just for coming up with the idea. It’s also his father’s birthday. Something is bound to happen on a day like that, and it always does. But the events often get more serious as Jimmy gets older.

2. It’s a great excuse to say words like “durn,” “daggone” and “dagburn” (a new one on me) without feeling self-conscious. As in “Mary Etta, can’t you keep this dagburn cat away from me?”

3. Rotten cabbages on Halloween. Need I say more?

4. There is a whole paragraph on snorting as a means of communication or lack thereof.

5. Slayton paints a picture of the folks in Rowlesburg through little details here and there. Almost like a story within the story. It’s realistic, never preachy and all the more meaningful because of the way it’s portrayed.

6. There is a cat names Amos (see #2)

7. Even upstanding citizens can be mischievous.

8. Jimmy’s Dad belongs to a secret society. Who doesn’t love secret societies? And, it wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be.

9. The relationship between Jimmy and his father builds in it’s intensity with each story. Mr. Cannon is one of those strong, silent types. The depth of his love for Jimmy would take me by surprise every now and then, but it also felt very familiar.

10. The trains of course! It’s amazing how trains can be so integral to the town. Here’s some fun info on trains from the author’s website.

Wrap-up: Slayton is a great storyteller. Jimmy has a wonderful voice. It’s the kind of book that makes you laugh one minute and cry the next. Seems like a good summer reading title, too.


Where did I get this book?

Fran Cannon Slayton sent me a copy of this book to review. Many thanks for the opportunity!


3 thoughts on “When the Whistle Blows ~ Fran Cannon Slayton

    jfox said:
    January 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    will have to check this out. just found your blog, readers advisory cheatsheet, love it…. was at ALA MW as well.

      ta responded:
      January 20, 2010 at 2:30 am

      Thanks. Never thought of my blog as an RA tool, that’s how I look at other people’s blogs. I’ll be posting about Midwinter, soon.

    Still Life ~ Louise Penny | Tempting Persephone said:
    August 5, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    […] this review for a week with little success, I’m going to borrow a page from my friend’s playbook and do something […]

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