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In March, readers in our "Sneak Peak: An Early Look at an Upcoming Book" feature won copies of WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD by Susan Crandall. The novel introduces readers to nine-year-old Starla Claudelle, who runs away from home to be with her mother in Nashville and is offered a ride by a black woman. As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. We gave the readers a series of questions to gauge their reactions to the book, and here we share some of their comments to give you insight into the story. 

We thank all of those who participated as early readers. For those of you who would like to read this tender coming-of-age story, WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD is now in stores.

Kim from Nicholasville, KY
WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD was a book that pulled out every emotion in me. I laughed and cried throughout the whole book. It was inspiring. I felt as though I could really see through Starla’s eyes. I was moved and proud to watch Eula start to come out of her shell after living such an abusive life. I read this book in two days because I could not put it down.

Nancy from Wisconsin
I loved WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD. I thought the book was easy to read. I loved the characters, especially Starla, the nine-year old narrator, and thought that the descriptions of life in Mississippi in 1963 made me feel like I was there. It reminded me a lot of reading THE HELP or THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES.

This is a story written from the point of view of a nine-year-old runaway girl about her journey of self-discovery and life-changing experiences. This book is a coming-of-age story.

Sharon from Wisconsin
WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD was in turn disturbing and illuminating. It made me remember how hard it was to judge the world and other’s intentions with so little experience of your own at that age. This book made me feel disturbed and hopeful.

Lisa Anne from Neptune, NJ
I really, really enjoyed this book. I liked the character development, the characters, and the interaction between the characters. I felt like the storyline was realistic and represented many issues that could have been faced by an inter-racial traveling pair in the 1960s. The book was interesting, captivating and thought-provoking.

Linda from Philadelphia, PA
I loved WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD! I fell in love with Starla and Eula. It was a wonderful, gripping and highly recommended tale!

Carolyn from Salado, TX
This book grabbed me from the very beginning, and I didn't want to put it down. The journey of a black woman, who befriends nine-year-old Starla as she is running away from her grandmother's house and hoping to unite with her mother in Nashville, is heart-wrenching. If you like stories about unlikely deep bonds of friendship, steadfast hearts and life-changing events, you will love it! This will be a favorite read.

Joyce from Grand Rapids, MI
I really enjoyed this book. I loved Starla and all her insights. I would compare it to THE HELP. It is an engaging, poignant, coming-of-age story.

Judy from Vancouver, WA
I LOVED reading this book. I really looked forward to picking up the book during the day when I was forced to put it down. I liked the character development and still find myself thinking of some of the characters long after I’ve finished the book. I would compare this book to THE DRY GRASS OF AUGUST by Anna Jean Mayhew.

Ruth from Kure Beach, NC
Love, love, love WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD! It was an engrossing, powerful and emotional novel. I am recommending this book to everyone because it has a little of everything --- love, mystery, thrills and history.

Sheila from Lincoln, RI
I found this book quite interesting to read. I liked how the story was told from a nine-year-old’s point of view. It reminded me of the book THE HELP. I would describe this book as interesting and unforgettable.

Allison from Primm Springs, TN
I can't say enough how much I love this book and how deeply it touched me. I was able to put myself in Starla's place as I was reading along, and I find her truly remarkable. I grew up in a home that was full of tolerance, equality and acceptance, so it was very emotional for me to see the hatred shown towards the African American society at that time. I also live near Nashville so that was fun to read about the streets and landmarks that are actually still here today. 

Debra from Roswell, GA
I think this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The storyline and characters will stay with me, and I will reflect back on them when I need strength. Susan Crandall is a gifted storyteller.

Dara from San Marcos, CA
I really enjoyed the book. It got me thinking about how blacks were really treated in the south in the '60s. The book was thought provoking, well written and sad.

Jayme from Virginia Beach, VA
I enjoyed reading WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD. It kept me captivated. The characters were likable, and Starla has a wonderful, distinct voice. There are also little nuggets of wisdom that were beautifully stated. This book reminded me of COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles.

Marylyn from Iowa
I got caught up in the characters and thought they were well-defined. The story was well-written and believable. This novel was an enlightening, historical reminder.

Sharon from Dallas, TX
I loved the character of Starla, and I thought the book excellently brought racial hatred of that time period into play. This book would make a good YA crossover since the violence and sexual content was more implied than described. The children in this book reminded me of Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but without the strong father figure of Atticus Finch.

Pamela from Sanibel, FL
I loved this book! It was thought-provoking and a trip back through time.

Rena from St. Augustine, FL
This book kept my interest and made me laugh, cry, sympathize with the characters, and feel blessed by my own life. I will tell my friends that WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD is a book that will make them cry, make them angry, but won't let them go until the end.

Irene from Wisconsin
I was pulled into the story from the very beginning. It is a heartbreaking and rewarding story at the same time. I’d have to compare this book to one of my all-time favorites, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. 

Deb from Vermont
I really enjoyed reading this book. The author manages to draw you into Starla’s world immediately, and you can relate to her struggles to understand what is not understandable. The dialogue is smooth and realistic, and the dialect feels authentic without being distracting. The characters were well developed, and we learned a lot about what made them the way they are. WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD is a book that I will recommend to others. The themes in this book are nothing new --- vicious cruelty during the Civil Rights movement. Starla’s innocent point of view and her realizations over time about the unfair world are very reminiscent of Scout in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Starla was such a spunky character. As a reader, you just had to root for her and hope that things turn out right in the end.  

Pam C. from Florence, MI
I enjoyed WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD very much. It was sad seeing how people were treated, but there was still a lot of humor in this book. Many of the expressions said by the adults with whom Starla came into contact I have heard many times.

Amber from Chicago, IL
I really enjoyed this book --- I thought it was poignant and sweet. She captured Starla's voice very well. Starla was a very believable and lovable character. It was similar to THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett.

Esther from Newtown, PA
I really enjoyed this book. I was able to connect with the character of Starla and care about what she went through. I would compare this book to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. It is really sad that nothing much changed between the 1930s and the early '60s. This story is sad, absorbing and compelling.

Jennie from California
I enjoyed reading this book very much. I felt the dialogue sounded authentic, the characters well developed, the amount of suspense was just right, and I loved Starla. It was touching to see her sense of outrage grow as she became more and more aware of the truth and the plight of the colored population, which was very much different from what she'd been brought up to think.

Shawna from Bismarck, ND
I thought it was a great book filled with suspense and tons of twist and turns. At first, I wasn't sure I would enjoy it since it's based around a little girl, but the more I read, the more I didn't want to put it down. I love how the little girl let love and compassion win over discrimination. Fabulous book!!

Christina from Charlotte, NC
I really enjoyed this book. I found the young heroine, Starla, to be captivating. She was so full of energy and driven toward her goal of finding her mother. Through all that happens on her journey, she discovers true love and friendship, and learns much about herself. This book was captivating, uplifting and authentic.

Jamie from Traverse City, MI
I found this book to be very enjoyable, a lot like THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES. I liked this book in that the story was narrated by Starla, a young child. It was a look at her life in the 1960s. I cried, I laughed, and I was angry at all the adults in her life who let her down. I enjoyed reading about the struggles that she and Eula went through, helping each other out. It was interesting that each had lost their mother. 

Violet from Puyallup, WA
I was intrigued from the first paragraph to the last. Starla is an amazing strong character. In a time when children were taught to be obedient, she found courage beyond her years. Her journey with Eula showed the insane intolerance of the time, but also showed how one child could make a difference.

Susan from Breckenridge, MI
I enjoyed the book very much. It was a good page-turner.

Barbara from Raleigh, NC
I have already recommended WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD to many people. I have particularly spoken about the authenticity of the voices in this novel, which I adored. From beginning to end, I was drawn into Starla's voice --- the clarity of her sense of right and wrong. I loved her evolution and the gradual loss of her girlish naïve idealism. I was also very pleased with the no nonsense way Mrs. Crandall handled the racial issues of the Jim Crow South.  

Laura from Collegeville, PA
I loved this book! I enjoyed reading the story from Starla's perspective. She is such a loveable character that I didn't want the book to end. WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD was heartwarming and enjoyable.

Maureen from Chalfont, PA
I enjoyed WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD --- it was very different. I found it to be exciting, thought-provoking and sad. 

Kay from Austin, TX
I was engrossed from the very beginning of the book. Susan Crandall does an amazing job of bringing the characters to life. It was an eye-opening look at discrimination and how the power of love could transcend social boundaries.