Whistle in the Dark by Susan Hill Long

ImageThe Plot in Five Sentences or Less:  Clem lives in the mining country in the Ozarks of Missouri.  After his 13th birthday, he must leave school and join his father in the mines to make much needed money for the family.  Clem detests mining and is tempted to join his friend Linda Jean in her family bootleg business.  A string of family tragedies, however, reinforces the need for Clem to work the mines and he subsequently wonders if his life will ever change.

My Take:  This was a convincing and compelling account of families caught in the economic trap of lead mining in Missouri in the 1920’s.  Through the characters of Clem and his family, we appreciate how awful that life was and how few choices people had in that area of the country.  Long’s writing is plain and never devolves into sentimentality.  I applaud her for using the 3rd person point of view, rather than the more common first person.  Towards the end there are a few plot points that tie things up perhaps a bit too nicely, but overall this is a pleasant and educational read for ages 10+.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  As a child, Susan had the interesting habit of rating her days along a spectrum of 1-10.  Her rating was based on the requirements of “doing [her] homework, eat[ing] well, exercis[ing], practicing the flute, and doing something nice for someone.”  She no longer rates her days, but you may find out more about her at her website.

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