Whistling Past the Graveyard

Whistling Past the Graveyard

4.07 (32,387 ratings by Goodreads)
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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. In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old spitfire Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother's Mississippi home. Starla hasn't seen her momma since she was three--that's when Lulu left for Nashville to become a famous singer. Starla's daddy works on an oil rig in the Gulf, so Mamie, with her tsk-tsk sounds and her bitter refrain of "Lord, give me strength," is the nearest thing to family Starla has. After being put on restriction yet again for her sassy mouth, Starla is caught sneaking out for the Fourth of July parade. She fears Mamie will make good on her threat to send Starla to reform school, so Starla walks to the outskirts of town, and just keeps walking. . . . If she can get to Nashville and find her momma, then all that she promised will come true: Lulu will be a star. Daddy will come to live in Nashville, too. And her family will be whole and perfect. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. The trio embarks on a road trip that will change Starla's life forever. She sees for the first time life as it really is--as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 28mm | 476g
  • Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 1476707723
  • 9781476707723
  • 1,082,341

Review quote

"Starla's fiery independence makes her a likable narrator."--Publishers Weekly
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Rating details

32,387 ratings
4.07 out of 5 stars
5 33% (10,638)
4 46% (14,903)
3 17% (5,591)
2 3% (950)
1 1% (305)

Our customer reviews

Where to start? First off, be prepared for a rave; I thought this one was FABulous! A quick note: This one has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help. While it WAS great, I can definitely say that it seems lighter than those two books - not as complex or layered, but it DOES address many of the same issues in the voice of Starla, a precocious, sassy 9 1/2-year-old (remember, that 1/2 really matters at that age). First lines: My grandmother said she prays for me every day. Which was funny, because I'd only ever hard Mamie pray, "Dear Lord, give me strength." That sure sounded like a prayer for herself - and Mrs. Knopp in Sunday school always said our prayers should only ask for things for others. Once I made the mistake of saying that out loud to Mamie and got slapped into next Tuesday for my sassy mouth. It is 1963 in Cayuga Springs, Mississippi. Starla is being raised by her maternal grandmother "Mamie", who is 45 years old and seems to resent having her around. Mamie's biggest fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother Lulu, who has been in Nashville, working on a recording career, since Starla was three years old. Her father works further down South on an oil rig, so Starla only sees him sporadically. When Starla sticks up for a girl she doesn't even really like, she finds herself in trouble AGAIN .. grounded ... on one of the best days of the year - the Fourth of July. When she sneaks out anyway, she runs into a nosy neighbor and things get worse from there. Starla takes it into her head to run away and find her mother in Nashville. Her mom will be so happy to see her that she'll let her stay, and her daddy will come join them, and they will be a family again. So she starts walking ... and walking .. and walking .. until she is picked up by a black woman named Eula who, strangely, has a white baby with her. Thus begins Starla's journey into a world that she didn't know existed. On her journey, she finds herself and others in dangerous situations, discovers the true meaning of family and friendship, and begins to glean an understanding of civil rights and the effect of segregation. Never having experienced true poverty, she is astonished to find that not everyone has electricity and running water, and as she discovers Eula's history, she begins to get an idea of true injustice. Starla's voice is utterly believable. Like any child her age, things are pretty much black and white (until they're not). As you travel with her, be prepared for the good and the bad, for laughter and tears, for heart-stopping situations as well as heart-warming ones. This sassy little protagonist will convince you of the truths of her story - you should definitely go along for the ride with her. QUOTES: Everybody in Cayuga Springs treated my momma like a secret. But it seemed like I was the only person they wanted to keep the secret from. Sometimes when Mamie had bridge club in the summer, I'd sit below the living-room window outside and listen. The ladies had plenty to say about Momma, all right. Hateful things. Lies. They squeezed them in between their bids and trumps, like it was part of the game. That kind of crazy liked to hide behind a mask and you never knew when it was gonna come out. "Oh, child, the law wouldn't do nothin'. A white man can do pretty much whatever he wants to a colored woman and a little girl - even if the little girl is white. It the way things are round here." Once when I was in first grade, Patti Lynn and me was talking to each other across the aisle just by movin' our lips, not even makin' a whisper. Mrs. Kessler heard our lips movin'. She made us both stand at the front of the class until recess. Teacher hearing was as good as Superman's. BLOGGERS: Have you reviewed this book? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review. Writing: 5 out of 5 stars Plot: 5 out of 5 stars Characters: 5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 5 out 5 stars BOOK RATING: 5 out of 5 stars Sensitive Reader: No real worries. There are some ticklish spots - domestic violence is depicted, and some situations have sensitive overtones. Book Club Recommendation: Definitely yes! What fun! I can see the discussions now!show more
by Julie Smith
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