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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mama Seeton's Whistle, written by Jerry Spinelli and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2015. $19.00 ages 4 and up

"Whenever the Seeton kids
heard the whistle, they came
running from the backyard.
And from their friends' backyards.

And from the Beswicks' living
room, where they sat on the
floor watching TV.
For these were the old days,
when only one family on a
block had a TV."

I have a dear friend whose whistle brought her kids running for home from wherever they happened to be playing in their neighborhood! I was in awe of it. Mama Seeton's whistle does the same thing, and she uses it as often as is necessary.

It starts when Skippy is only two. Mama calls him to dinner, and doesn't get a response. Without thinking, she whistles. It brings Skippy running (he is right behind her the entire time). As the family grows, the whistle becomes Mama's way of gathering her family for meals and chocolate cake. Even as the four kids grow older, their mama's whistle is all they need to hear to bring them running.

"The whistle wasn't loud and it wasn't fancy. But it went in all
directions. It flew right through the talk of people and the noise of
cars and buses."

And then, the children grow up and leave home. They no longer can come home for dinner - and chocolate cake. It is a sad time for the whole family as they miss each other terribly. Even Mrs. Seeton succumbs to the sadness of being separated from her children. Her husband encourages her to step outside to whistle - just once more. No child hears it ... or do they?

I love the way Jerry Spinelli tells a story! He needs no extra words; yet, he conveys a sense of comfort and sentiment that is sure to please. LeYuen Pham's art is a perfect match to the wonder of his words. Her ink and watercolor paintings take me back to my childhood, when children played outdoors all day long and somehow managed to be home in time for dinner - mother's whistle or not.


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