Monday, June 17, 2013

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

9 year old Starla Claudelle is smart and outspoken and sticks up for even a girl in the neighborhood she doesn't like. Mamie (her grandmother) sees it differently, though, she's always getting on Starla to act like a lady and not to sass back and giving her restrictions, like she can't go to the 4th of July picnic and fireworks. Living with Mamie is cramping her style. Her Daddy's working on an oil rig and is hardly ever home and her mother Lucinda, or Lulu as she now wants to be called, had taken off for Nashville when Starla was still a baby, so she could get her big country music career going.
There's a lot going on in the news, too, this summer of 1963, what with all the civil rights coverage and the unfairness of things, it seems to Starla, but Mamie says the colored people like things the way they are with separate drinking fountains and bathrooms and whatnot.
Missing out on the July 4th festivities and feeling unloved Starla decides to run away and find her mother, probably now famous, since Starla found a record Lulu had once sent her and Mamie had thrown in the trash.
 Starla packs her bag and sets off for Nashville on a hot, hot day. Finally, she accepts a ride from Eula, a nice African American woman driving a beat up old truck who says she'll help her and who turns out to have a white baby sleeping in a basket also along for the ride.
So begins this funny, thoughtful and sometimes frightening journey that opens Starla's eyes to the world around her and what it is exactly that makes a family. "Whistling Past the Graveyard" could very well sit on your shelf along side "To Kill a Mockingbird", "The Secret Life of Bees" and "Huckleberry Finn". Starla's definitely good company and someone you can enjoy spending a hot summer afternoon (or anytime!) with as she takes you on this literary road trip!

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