Fran Cannon Slayton’s debut novel, When the Whistle Blows, takes place in Rowlesburg,
West Virginia, in the 1940s. Jimmy Cannon can't wait to grow up enough to follow in the footsteps
of his father and brother and go to work on the B & O Railroad, but Jimmy's father opposes this
idea. He sees that the future of railroading is changing. He warns that the old steam
locomotives are being replaced with diesel-driven engines. Jobs will be eliminated, and the
main source of employment for the town will come to an end. Jimmy is sure that is not true...steam
engines will be here forever.
Jimmy Cannon's group of friends call themselves "The Platoon," and they share some lively
adventures, including Halloween pranks. Jimmy's father belongs to a secret society that Jimmy
is determined to find out about. As his brothers come of age, they too join the society, and
Jimmy's curiosity intensifies.
This unique coming of age tale takes place on Halloween, each chapter in a different year.
Mr. Cannon's birthday just happens to be on Halloween too, and that holiday also has further
significance in the story's ending. This fast-paced story that revolves around the special
relationship of a boy and his father will interest even reluctant readers. It's fresh and
witty and they can easily relate to Jimmy and his friends and share their exciting adventures,
and the joys and heartache they encounter. Jimmy is a compelling character whom readers will