Monday, November 25, 2013

Whistle In The Dark by Susan Long - OPTIONAL

Long, Susan Hill Whistle In The Dark, 192 pgs. Holiday House, 2013. $16.95. Language: G; Content: G; Violence: G.

My interest was captured by the book’s first sentence, “It was June, the middle of the day Clem was to quit being a boy.”  Due to financial strains created largely by the medical needs of Grandpa, who has miner’s consumption, and younger sister, Esther, who has epilepsy, Clem needs to work to contribute to the family paycheck. The excitement of his birthday is marred, knowing the next day he will follow family tradition and enter the mines with his father.  A boy who loves to write, he would much rather be in school. Making life less difficult is the appearance of a stray dog, Pally, a belated birthday-wish-come-true, who helps to ease life’s disappointments, and Clem’s unexpected friendship with Lindy, the daughter of a local and abusive moonshiner; she was disfigured in an accident, and thus, finds few who will accept her. This friendship is one of the great parts of this gentle novel. 

This well-written book provides a good look at the small mining community of the 1920s, the dangers of mines during that period, and the desire of one young man to do something different with his life. Throughout the book, Clem shoulders his responsibility, is resilient, and grows in character. I enjoyed this book. It may be a little harder sell to students, but is a solid middle school purchase for a library with a strong historical fiction collection. 

MS – OPTIONAL. Reviewed by A. Curtis

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