Review: When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton

when the whistle blows by fran cannon slayton

Jimmy lives in Rowlesburg, West Virginia, during the 1940s. He does all the things boys do in the small mountain town: plays a mean game of football, pulls the unforgettable Halloween prank with his friends in ?the Platoon,? and promises to head off into the woods on the first day of hunting season? No matter what. He also knows his father belongs to a secret society, and is determined to uncover the mysteries behind it! But it is a midnight encounter with a train that shows Jimmy the man his father really is. Newcomer Fran Cannon Slayton?s powerful first novel captures the serendipity of boyhood by shining a spotlight on the peak adventures of Jimmy?s life. But at its heart, this is a story about a boy and his father in a time when trains reigned supreme.

Description taken from Goodreads.


There were many refreshing things about WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS, one of which being that this story is not at all whimsical or fun-loving or fantasy MG oriented in any way. Yes, I do love whimsical stories and I most definitely love modern MG fantasy, but I’ve been overloaded by these types of books for awhile, so I was really happy to see a no-nonsense type of solely realistic fiction book like this on my TBR pile. Another thing I loved about this book was how easily readable it was. With just a few pages, I wanted more.

WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS is without a doubt a guy-oriented type of book. There’s hardly one female character in it, which was refreshing in a way, and it also made me appreciate the female characters more in the other books I read shortly after this. WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS is a sleepy historical fiction, but it’s also very intense at times. There are lots of good action scenes that I enjoyed that makes the pace flow up and down, but not in a bad way. The plot was great here and there was a lot that went on and plenty of time to think about the high-speed action type of scenes.

Overall, I really liked this book. It was just the break I needed and it was a short, quick read that wasn’t dry or annoying. It was actually quite entertaining, humorous at times and just tender and tough enough. I don’t think that Slayton was lacking in making this book have all sorts of emotions, wisdom and elements, but I would have liked to see what she could do with other types of personalities and characters. Overall, a fairly well-rounded book that I would recommend for historical fiction/contemporary seeking boys 10-12, maybe for fans of OLD YELLER. 4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 162

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