Rave Reviews Log: Historical Fiction

September 12, 2009

When the Whistle Blows

By Fran Cannon Slayton
Era: 1940's American South
Rating: 4 stars

Jimmy lives in Rowlesburg, West Virginia, a tiny town where just about everyone who lives there works for the B & O Railroad. Jimmy can't wait until he's old enough to drop out of school and go work on those steam engines himself, like his foreman father and older brothers, although his parents are dead set against him becoming a railroad man. We hear about a snapshot of Jimmy's life every year on the same date--Halloween, which is also his father's birthday. Rowlesburg and its occupants come alive as Jimmy relates the first time he spied on the mythical Society, about a Halloween prank gone wrong, about the time the new principal decided to keep school open for the first day of hunting season, and on and on. There's a lot of funny stories in Jimmy's world but through it all the real core is about the relationships the townsfolk have with each other. It is also a story about Jimmy and his father, a man he doesn't really understand but every year, he comes to know him a little bit better. Readers may well be caught up in Jimmy's world, which small as it is, still encompasses everything. Thoughtful readers will especially like this story of a forgotten place and time.


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