> The Things You Can Read: Review: Whistling Past the Graveyard

The Things You Can Read welcomes you and thanks you for your readership. We, here at The Things You Can Read, ask your help, if you visit our site regularly, please follow us either via email or Google Friend Connect.  Launched on June 7, 2012, our site has already attracted a great deal of attention.  One of the goals of the site is to feature reviews of Children's Picture Books, Young Adult novels and Adult Literary Fiction/Nonfiction.  A second goal for the blog is to be a resource for teachers of English and writing--with examples of student created writing, writing tips, resource links, and the opportunity to pick the brain of a seasoned English teacher.  To spice things up...every now and then, we'll also include random quotes and thoughts on education and life in general, but our ultimate goal is to reach out into the blogosphere and be a "Book Whisperer" and "Writing Whisperer" to children and adults of all ages.   Thank you for your readership.  Here is to a lifetime filled with reading and writing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Whistling Past the Graveyard
Do you find it hard to select that next book once you have just finished a really good read?  I do, so when I'm looking for my next read to replace that one I could not put down, I'm looking for something to jump out at me, and say PICK ME!  It might be a blurb on the back of the book from an author I respect, or it might come in the short summary provided by the publisher, or a comment from one of the great folks at Goodreads.  Well, I found myself leafing through my ARCs and my attention was drawn to Susan Crandall's new novel.  What caught my attention with this one was the fact that it is being compared in blurbs and in reviews to To Kill a Mockingbird, which if you don't already know is my all time favorite book and movie, so if these magic words are used as a comparison-I'm in!
Lets address how these two novels are similar?  Well, they both have young pre-teen southern narrators.  Both are coming of age stories that deal with the theme of "differences" in each case discrimination is the means to illustrate this uncomfortable lesson.  Yet Scout and Starla remain colorblind in their relationships. Other shared themes include Friendship and Courage.  The setting of each is the South, but Scout's South is the small town South of the Depression Era Alabama, while Starla's South is the small town South of the early 1960s Civil Rights era Mississippi.  Both children view the segregated South through innocent eyes, and both see it for what it is...unacceptable.  A one parent household is another similarity, and both think often about the parent that is not in their lives.  Both girls are precocious, headstrong and full of spunk, which makes for an interesting read.  Yes, Whistling Past the Graveyard shares many similarities with To Kill a Mockingbird, but rest assured it can stand alone as a great read on its own merits.

"My grandmother said she prays for me every day."  With this opening sentence one can tell already that this nine year-old red headed protagonist is in for some trouble.  The voice of Starla quickly sets the tone for what is to come.  Starla jumps out of the frying pan and into the fire every step of the way.  The author has a deft handle on the dialect of the South so Starla sounds real as do the other Southern characters that fill the novel.  In my opinion the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, is what I'd call the perfect novel, so Whistling Past the Graveyard had big shoes to fill, but it does, just in a different way from Harper Lee's classic.   I'd add that a comparison to Mark Twain's Huck Finn is also very accurate, because Miss Starla gets herself in a heap of trouble and ends up running away just like old Huck, which is where much of the conflicts of the novel occur, just like in Twain's classic.   
I have to add that I loved the title once I read Starla's explanation of this old Southern saying: "My daddy says that when you do somethin' to distract you from your worstest fears, it's like whistlin' past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away.  He says that's how we get by sometimes. But it's not weak, like hidin'... It's strong.  It means you're able to go on."  I've heard some old timey sayings, but I'd missed this one, and have added it to my repertoire.
If you like Southern fiction and you like "coming of age" stories check out Whistling Past the Graveyard.  You'll be glad you did.
I'd like to thank Gallery Books Publishing and Edelweiss for the Advanced Readers Copy of Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Watch a video of the author discussing Whistling Past the Graveyard:  Click HERE or watch below:

Book Club Reading Guide:  Click HERE

Summary Courtesy of Goodreads:

From an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip.

The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.

As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.

Does this sound like a book for you?  Let us know here at The Things You Can Read!

Happy reading to all! ☮

Happy Reading
The Things You Can Read!
Believe In Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love, and the Power of Books!



  1. This novel really intrigues me! I hope to read it soon!

  2. I don't always like "Southern" fiction (an irrational prejudice) but I've seen several good reviews of this book recently!


Your Comment is awaiting moderation. It will appear once it has been approved.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...