Sunday, June 28, 2009

OK, We're Adding a Book to Our Event List Last Minute, but Only Because it's So Good--A Case for Fran Slayton's "When the Whistle Blows"

So I'm with my Laverne-and-Shirley-loving librarian friends, having dinner with our Anne, our Macmillan sales rep, when we start brainstorming about ALA (the American Library Association convention) in Chicago. Remember this post?

Well here's the other half. I asked Anne what authors were going to be at ALA and whether any of them would be interested in detouring to Milwaukee. This is similar to the conversation I had about the Printers Row Festival. So far, I haven't had good luck, but I'm still trying.

It turned out in this case, I didn't recognize the authors well enough to try to put together an event, but at the same time, I had one author (From Penguin's Philomel imprint, not Macmillan) who came up with the idea on her own.

It's Fran Slayton, the author of a new young adult novel called When the Whistle Blows. It's a about a family in small town 1940's West Virginia. It's a train town alright, where just about the whole Cannon family works for the B&O Railroad. There's a secret society and secrets to be revealed, but the poignancy comes from the way the Cannon family's destiny is entwined with Rowlesburg, as well as the steam engine itself.

We copied our sales rep Alex after the event confirmed, and he immediately called back. When he first read it, he immediately wrote to the editor, offering praise. Here’s what he told me, a little paraphrased, of course.

It’s a really great book! This boy is raised in a West Virginia town where everyone worked for the railroad. The romance of the rails is a large part of the story. They fixed the steam engines there, but diesel’s on its way, and that bodes ill for the future. You feel for this kid as he attempts to connect with his dad. It reminded me of Richard Peck.

It's a YA novel, but we really feel (and hope) that train enthusiasts will like it too. I can imagine this book being published as an adult title 25 years ago, but maybe winding up still being shelved in the kids' section. I'm hoping we reach the right folks for this book--I suspect that if they give it a try, they'll like it.
Fran Slayton is appearing at Boswell Book Company on Monday, July 6th, at 7 PM. Our kids bookseller Pam has also read the book and agrees with Alex wholeheartedly.

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