Parents' Guide to

When the Whistle Blows

By Debra Bogart, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Coming-of-age adventure will especially hook boy readers.

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It's a small-town tale reminiscent of Friday Night Lights, with a historical setting and a mysterious twist. Halloween pranks, steam trains, football, and adventures that harken back to the writing of Mark Twain and Jack London make this a memorable read that will entice even reluctant readers with likeable characters and entertaining exploits centered around family. The unusual narrative structure uses six long chapters, each taking place on a consecutive Halloween, to tell the story of a boy coming of age in post-WWII America when technology is changing life in many ways. Jimmy's dad wants a better life for his sons, one that is safer and more reliable, and a universal story is made new in this rousing version as a boy grows up enough to recognize his father has not only courage and compassion, but real wisdom.

The ending reveals those same qualities in four Irish brothers named Cannon, who immigrated to America on a coffin ship and vowed to help each other. Highly enjoyable fiction based on some real-life events in West Virginia.

Book Details

  • Author: Fran Cannon Slayton
  • Genre: Coming of Age
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Philomel
  • Publication date: June 11, 2009
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 17
  • Number of pages: 162
  • Last updated: July 12, 2017

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