Saturday, September 10, 2011

Booktalk: When the Whistle Blows (Virginia Readers' Choice)

If you live in a small rural town in West Virginia where many of the men work for or on the railroad, you get used to risk and danger. Trains are dangerous: it’s a simple fact. Jimmy, a young teenager, knows people who have been hit and killed by trains. Boilers can explode, killing the fireman and the engineer. But Jimmy’s dad, the railroad foreman, is more afraid about a new kind of technology. He says that the steam engines are all going to be replaced by diesels, and that a lot of men will lose their jobs. The diesel engines are faster, more powerful, and require fewer workers. Much of their small town, Rowlesburg, could be unemployed. And they are already poor enough.

But Jimmy’s really tough, both physically and emotionally. He survived a brutal football game in which a member of the opposing team intentionally tore up Jimmy’s already badly damaged knee. The kid was an animal. Jimmy’s worked in a shop where he had to go after criminals with a club. And it turns out that his dad is sick and getting sicker, threatening the security of Jimmy’s whole family. To survive in this type of town, you have no choice but to be tough. When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton.

When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton. 162 p. 2009: Philomel Books. Virginia Readers' Choice, 2011-2012, middle school. Booktalk to middle school, high school.

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