When The Whistle Blows
Monica notes that we’ve not yet talked about When the Whistle Blows here. It does bear comparison to The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and A Season of Gifts. It is episodic, historical, and told from an adult-perspective looking back [sic, see comments] . It took quick a while to draw me in, but I tried to tell myself it might just be personal taste, and kept on. The third time in I made it all the way through, and found the payoff at the end–the very end–that elevates the book beyond "good" to "maybe distinguished." But I find the perspective from which that payoff happens to be rooted firmly in adult nostalgia, and not in what a child–of up to and including age fourteen–would bring to this reading.
This is not to say that I don’t think this is a children’s book…or even a good children’s book. I do think it has child appeal, and the commenter’s at Monica’s post have begun to attest to that. But considering it for the Newbery: I don’t find enough distinguishing elements in it that speak to a child audience to put it in my, say, top 10… which, at this point, includes mostly nonfiction.
For the record, I have some of the same questions about Calpurnia Tate and Season of Gifts (Kickapoo issue aside). If I were on the committee, I’d ask myself and ask my fellow committee members to ask themselves very carefully: do I feel this is distinguished writing/style/characterization because it speaks to an adult nostalgia in me? What are child readers taking from these books, and are these elements distinguished? I do think there’s strong writing in each of these two, and the answer may be "yes"…but the question should indeed be addressed.
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About Nina Lindsay
Nina Lindsay is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Oakland Public Library, CA. She chaired the 2008 Newbery Committee, and served on the 2004 and 1998 committees. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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