A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Information about steam trains and the advent of diesel trains, life during the early 1940s in America.
Close-knit relationships in this 1940s small town revolve around a sense of community where friends look out for each other as if they were family. Jimmy's parents urge their sons to complete their educations. Loyalty, compassion, and courage are core values throughout the book.
Positive Role Models
Jimmy likes danger and mischief, but works hard, stands by his friends, and grows up to be as courageous as his father. The boys in this town have plenty of examples of why they don't want to grow up to become drunks, lazy, or criminal; they also have examples of hardworking, honest men who watch out for those less fortunate and want better lives for their children.
Violence & Scariness
Jimmy gets beaten up by older brothers; a man is shot in a grocery market robbery; a man loses his leg in a train accident and dies; a train engine explodes and men are killed.
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"Heck," plus one use of "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Jimmy's dad is a functioning alcoholic; many adult men drink whiskey; teens drink on weekends; adults drink at meetings of the secret society. Jimmy's father tries to quit smoking cigarettes when he develops emphysema. And 12-year-old boys sometimes sneak cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this fast-paced adventure tailor-made for boy readers has some drinking (mostly among the adult males) and a lot of pranking among the kids, especially on Halloween. There is some violence, including a train crash and a parent's death.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.