Another Review at MyShelf.Com

When the Whistle Blows

by Fran Cannon Slayton


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 never forget.

The Book

Philomel Books / Penguin Group
June 11, 2009
Hardcover (Reviewed from the Uncorrected Galley)
0399251898 / 978-0399251894
Fiction / Tweener
More at
NOTE: Holiday read:  Halloween

The Reviewer

Beverly J. Rowe
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Beverly J. Rowe is's "Babes to Teens" columnist, covering topics related to reading ideas for the youth in the family.
© 2009