When the Whistle BlowsTitle: When the Whistle Blows
Author: Fran Cannon Slayton
ISBN: 9780399251894
Pages: 162 pages
Publisher: Philomel Books/Penguin Young Readers Group, c2009.

Well, probably the best way to describe my dad is to say that his birthday is tomorrow. Halloween. Or as he calls it, “All Hallows’ Eve.” The day of the dead. Or really, the day the dead come back and haunt the living. You know, trick us. Confuse us. […]
It’s a heck of a day to be born on, really. But I’ve gotta say that as far as I can tell, it suits Dad pretty durn well. Because you never know what kind of exciting theings just might head down the tracks on All Hallows’ Eve–besides the trains, I mean. (2)

Fran Cannon Slayton weaves together Halloween stories revolving around the sleepy train town of Rowlesburg West Virginia over the course of six years. Jimmy Cannon, the youngest of three sons to the railroad opperator, relates the adventures he had on his dad’s birthday. From hiding out in the graveyard, to witnessing a secret society meeting, and playing a championship football game, Jimmy Cannon reveals that you’ll never know what’s going to happen When the Whistle Blows.

This seems like a great pick for October, with Halloween right around the corner. I was spellbound, reading about the practical jokes played by both the teens and the parents in the stories. Two of the stories are heart wrenching, describing tragic deaths that the main character must learn to deal with. The graphic details of one of the deaths, and the instances of foul language are the only reason I would hesitate recommending for a younger set, but they’d definitely have appeal with the second story involving graveyards and frozen lettuce. The story of the football team’s championship game is vivid in it’s description, and the outcome is perfect, also a suitable choice for the younger crowd, with some substitution for words. The stories come full circle, with the last recalling details of the first. A definite recommend for reluctant readers, considering the length and the suscinct story telling.