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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Summary: The railroad is all Jimmy Cannon has ever known. There is nothing like the rumble and the whistle of a train as it rolls through Rowlesburg. It is all he wants to know. He wants to be a railroad man just like all the other men in his family, including his grandfather, dad, brothers, and uncles. Jimmy's dad will have none of it. He says steam engines are dying. Each year, as Jimmy celebrates his dad's birthday, he keeps us up to date on his life, and those trains, too. This is an historical fiction novel set in a West Virginia railroad town in the 1940s.
Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, middle grade reader, read aloud book, reluctant reader
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 12; read yourself: 10 and up
Interest Level: 10 and up
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: This is a fascinating story. Several months before I read it, I saw Fran Slayton's book trailer for When the Whistle Blows. In the trailer, Fran reads from the book, and it is that voice that brings Jimmy to life in the book. This is an incredibly well told story that has a timeless quality to it.
Pros: With a book whose chapters all open on Halloween, a few creepy moments, and plenty of action, kids will be wrapped up in this story from cover to cover.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is a wonderful story that will be handed around the family and then to friends. It is an excellent choice for a youth book club.
Educational Themes: The author gives us lots to explore in this book. Although relationships and family dynamics are the easiest to spot; there are details about rural living; life in the 1940s; trains, transportation, and progress; traditions and culture; and growing up.
Notes: This book is from a personal library.
Literary Categories: Fiction - young adult, family, historical fiction, 1940s, World War II, transportation
Date(s) Reviewed: August 2009
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