Reviews for When the Whistle Blows


Booklist Reviews 2009 July #1
Slayton's debut novel evocatively recalls life in 1940s small-town West Virginia. The book stretches from 1943 to 1949, with each chapter recounting a Halloween in the life of Jimmy Cannon, who begins the book at 12 years old. Through his eyes, we see his complex and formative relationship--a mix of idolatry and fear--with his stern father, a railroad man who warns his kids not to follow in his footsteps. Year by year, Jimmy grows from a venturesome boy to a trouble-magnet adolescent and finally into a young man. Slayton keeps her story from becoming too much of a nostalgia piece by keeping the focus squarely on her characters, exploring actions and sentiments that transcend eras, from light hooliganism to the triumph of winning the final football game in an undefeated season to the quieter milestone of being welcomed into adulthood. This short, memorable novel offers readers a chance to see how boys their grandfather's age got in and out of trouble and a glimpse of how, at its core, growing up has changed little even over half a century. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Fall
In a short introduction, narrator Jimmy sets the scene: 1940s West Virginia railroad town. Seven episodic chapters follow, one per year, describing events on Halloween night. Jimmy and his brothers make mischief and investigate a long-standing "secret society," and Jimmy bonds with his railroad foreman father. The stories are by turns humorous, sad, uplifting, and nostalgic. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2009 May #1
Set in a railroad town in West Virginia in the 1940s, these quaint and compelling short stories, which together function as a novel, tell the engrossing tale of young Jimmy Cannon, who is growing from boy to man at the very same time that the most important elements in his life--his father and the steam-engine trains he has loved since childhood--are chugging toward their last breaths. The stories, taking place on a series of seven All Hallow's Eves, follow Jimmy as he engages in childish pranks, plays in the championship football game, spies on the secret railroad society that his father and brothers belong to and finally is inducted into that society after his father's death. Ultimately, Jimmy learns to accept that the days of the steam engine are over, to better understand his emotionally distant father and to embrace his role as newest member of his father's society, which turns out to be centered not on the railroad after all, but on faith, brotherhood and love. An unassuming masterpiece. (Historical fiction. 10 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews
Slayton's sweet and nostalgic debut novel tells the story of seven consecutive Halloweens, starting in 1943, in the life of teenage Jimmy Cannon. He wants nothing but to follow in the footsteps of his father and older brothers and work for the railroad, which runs through his hometown of Rowlesburg, W. Va. His dad, however, believes that the railroads are dying, and that Jimmy's future is elsewhere. As each year passes, readers get glimpses of Jimmy's small-town life: a late-night wake for a favorite uncle, a prank gone awry, a robbery with nearly disastrous consequences, etc. Slayton takes a few wrong turns, notably the chapters featuring the football championship and the boorish school principal who opposes hunting season, both of which have cliched resolutions. Though the nature of the book-devoid of Jimmy's growth over the 364 days between each chapter-can feel disjointed, Jimmy, his father and the townsfolk have unique, compelling voices that nicely convey the sense of small-town America during and after World War II. Ages 10-up. (June) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 June

Gr 6-10--Linked stories set on seven consecutive All Hallows' Eves, from 1943 through 1949, relate Jimmy Cannon's teenage years in Rowlesburg, WV. Central to his story are his two older brothers, his friends, and especially his father, a formidable figure in a long succession of Cannon men who have worked for the B&O railroad. Why then, does Dad insist that Jimmy must not follow in his own footsteps? And what is his father's role in the secretive and mysterious "Society" of local men? This is nostalgia done right, as Jimmy describes the high jinks, the championship football game, the risks and rewards of his part-time job, and other significant events that shape his love for his small hometown at a time and place when the railroad was the town. Telling details and gentle humor help set the scene and reveal a great deal about these characters and their lives. The nature, membership, and duties of "The Society" slowly come to the fore as events transpire that sharpen Jimmy's perceptions and provide him with the insights to consider the possibility of an unknown and very different future than the one he had always imagined. A polished paean to a bygone time and place.--Joel Shoemaker, South East Junior High School, Iowa City, IA

[Page 138]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2009 October
Each of the seven chapters in this book takes place in a small West Virginia railroad town on Halloween, starting in 1943 and ending in 1949. Narrator Jimmy Cannon is eleven during the opening vignette, in which he witnesses a secret wake for his uncle, conducted by the town's Irish brotherhood. The story comes full circle in the final vignette, when Jimmy is inducted into the brotherhood at a similar vigil for his father and learns the story of his immigrant ancestor who founded the society. The episodes in between, sometimes funny and sometimes tragic, form a vivid portrait of the town and its people, chronicling Jimmy's growth from boy to man and the slow death of the town as the railroad becomes more efficient and requires less manpower. Every chapter in this book is self-contained, but the slice-of-life structure and the returning characters are appealing and effective methods for connecting the stories into a novel. The unconventional framework requires the reader to use inference and imagination, something that will fascinate and engage younger teens who have likely encountered only straightforward narratives in their reading. A teacher using this book in a classroom setting would have no problem thinking up companion activities, and leisure readers will hope for more books from Slayton.--Jenny Ingram. 4Q 4P M J Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.

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