Friday, June 21, 2013
Whistling past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall
“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.”Starla Claudelle, nine year old narrator of Whistling Past the Graveyard
Looking at the civil rights era from a child's point of view, this story is raw, poignant, touching and beautiful.
Nine year old Starla lives with her grandmother in Mississippi in 1963. Her mother left when she was three years old to go to Nashville and become a famous singer and her father works on an oil rig and her grandmother, Mamie, resents raising her. She is constantly in trouble due to her extreme curiosity and spunkiness and tendency to speak before thinking and stand up for what she thinks is right. When she gets caught at the 4th of July parade while she should have been home on restriction due to breaking Jimmy Sellers's nose which he deserved for picking on five year old Priscilla, she runs away.
Eula, a black woman who has just picked up a baby that she saw someone leave on the steps of a church, picks up Starla as well when she sees her walking down the road.
From there, Eula and Starla and baby Jimmy go on a two week adventure on the way to Nashville to go to Starla's mother.
Starla sees and is shocked by the way that black people are treated and at one point they are taken in by Miss Cyrena, a black school teacher and Civil Rights Activist. When Miss Cyrena shows Starla her school, Starla is saddened that the black children don't have a playground or swing sets like the children at her school do.
I think this book would be a wonderful book to read and discuss in high school English classes. It is a totally excellent book and I highly recommend it. I received it free to review from Netgalley.