Friday, July 19, 2013
WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD by Susan Crandall
I picked this one up courtesy of the publisher at ALA in Chicago. My neighbor read it first and told me I must make it the next book on my TBR pile. So glad I listened to her.
Set in 1963 in Mississippi, the main character is nine year old Starla Claudelle. More than anything she wants to attend the Fourth of July fireworks, but having recently punched a local troublemaker in the nose, Starla is grounded. Furious that her grandmother has spoiled everything, Starla decides to run away to Nashville where her mother is following her dream to be a country singer.
It doesn't take long for Starla to find herself in a real mess. A kindly black woman named Eula offers her a ride. When Starla asks questions about the white baby crying on the floor of Eula's pickup, Eula tells her she found him abandoned on the church steps.
Starla winds up at Eula's house, and when the woman's huge husband arrives, he isn't at all pleased to find two white children. When it is clear he means to kill Starla, Eula whacks him on the head with a skillet, killing him. Now Eula and Starla are on the run. Young Starla is confident that if they can just get to Nashville her mother will take them in and help Eula and the little baby boy.
Author Susan Crandall weaves an amazing adventure, but even more than that, the relationships she creates give readers a glimpse into the South and the heart of the Civil Rights movement. Starla's innocent friendship with a black woman are in stark contrast with the prejudice and hate so prevalent in the South. Compared to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and THE HELP, critics are predicting WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD will be a classic.