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Whistling Past the Graveyard

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  30,919 ratings  ·  4,152 reviews
The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her dad ...more
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by Gallery Books
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Phyllis Miller Didn't find any offensive language or sexual content in this book although I would object to neither if important to the story's plot, atmosphere, or …moreDidn't find any offensive language or sexual content in this book although I would object to neither if important to the story's plot, atmosphere, or character development. The key is the narrator's (Starla) age and lack of sophistication. Sexual content is often ominous and veiled, but the adult reader can surmise that rape is a threat in several instances and that Eula has been the victim of sexual and emotional abuse. Part of Starla's coming of age is her gradual realization that sexual behavior is complex, Two examples are her mother's current life in Nashville and the unwanted pregnancy of Starla's best friend's older sister. This in addition to her increasing awareness of racial differences between Black and White society in the South mark her story as a classic coming of age genre and a very powerful one indeed. (less)

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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  30,919 ratings  ·  4,152 reviews

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Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
My daddy says that when you do somethin' to distract you from your worstest fears, it's like whistlin' past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that's how we get by sometimes. But it's not weak, like hidin'... It's strong. It means you're able to go on.

I absolutely adored Starla, She is such a feisty, compassionate and hot-headed little girl. She is one of my best-loved characters ever. I thought her voice was very authentic. I know a few
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
“I had to hold on to the mad so the sad didn't drown me.”

9 year-old Starla Jane Claudelle is a lil cracker jack box of a kid with fire engine hair, a sassy mouth and a strong sense of justice. She doesn't yet understand the world around her in the tumultuous environment of Mississippi in 1963, but she learns how unfair life can be when she runs away from her Mamie's house to live with her mama in Nashville.

Along the way she meets Eula, a sweet African-American woman who is wise beyond her years
Angela M
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it

Parts of this story may seem a little unrealistic but it really doesn't matter because many other truths are told in this novel:

- The ugly truth of segregation, prejudice, and what it meant to be black in the south in the 1960’s.

- The realistic depiction of a tough lesson learned by a 9 year old girl that in life things may not be as they seem and no matter how much we want something to be true, sometimes it just isn’t.

- How love and caring can take a little girl and a grown black woman back fr
Em Lost In Books
Sorely disappointed. It was not what I was expected. I had a hard time to believe in the characters and their motives. Starla and Eula, both were unrealistic and their actions were even more foolish. A 9 year old leaving her house and meeting Eula on her way to Nashville, who was running away after stealing a white baby. This happening in Mississippi of 1963 is something that I simply refuse to believe in. At times, Starla behaved like a grown up, the things she said at age of 9 again made me qu ...more
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of fiction!
Recommended to Debbie by: My friend, Carrie
I LOVED this story! I highly recommend reading/listening to it for the following reasons:
1. Interesting look at segregation in the American Deep South during two weeks in the summer of 1963 through the eyes of a white child.
2. Characters are so well-developed! How can one not like Starla, a sassy 9-year old girl, yet innocent in the ways of her world? I had a soft spot for her, especially in her use of vernacular and occasional childlike vocabulary. And I sympathized with Eula, a kindhearted bla
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my younger days, when I had more sass in my head than I had sense, I managed to hit a few boys, and I got walloped a few times in return. Momma always said my mouth wandered off more than it stayed home, and my jaw got more exercise than a coon hound on a huntin’ expedition. I had more than a little trouble stopping words that were better off swallowed, and I had my defiant face all practiced and rarin’ to go faster than my granddad’s John Deere tractor.

I was fixin’ to visit my momma in Nashv
Patrice Hoffman
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Let's get that I absolutely LOVE this book out of the way. Whistling Past The Graveyard is a heartwarming, endearing coming of age story about a fiesty 9 year old girl who decides it's high time she flew the coop in an effort not to be sent to boarding school. It's the summer of 1963 in Cayuga Springs, the Fourth of July, and a pocket full of penny candy that puts the wheels in motion for a life-changing experience for two unsuspecting lives that intersect on an abandoned road.

Whistling Past Th
Diane S ☔
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 Let me say that I absolutely loved little nine yr. old Starla, being raised by her overly strict grandmother was by no means fair. Felt sorry for Eula, her life, her sorrows, yet she was full of love just looking for a place to land.

The south in the sixties was a rather horrible place to be a black person, though as Eula says, They is just used to it." Still reading these books are always so hard, people were just so darn cruel. A nine year old taking off on a journey to find her mother in N
Crystal Craig

I had high hopes for this book right from the start, and I was not disappointed. What a fantastic southern novel. The title grabbed me first and then the cover art, but the best part was the written word inside. I loved reading about young Starla and her adventures. She's quite the character. I totally recommend this book.
Ruth Turner
Oct 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned


Well written, easy to read, and Southern. I should have loved this book.

But I didn't, because I didn't like any of the characters and felt no connection to them. Starla, the main character and narrator, really annoyed me. I found her irritating and objectionable.

I gave up at about two thirds because I really had no interest in how the story finished.

Disappointing and implausible.

Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one!
Read like many stories written by white authors which are set in the South, about the 60s pre-Civil Rights Movement, and feature a black main character. So...nothing really new shared here...very predictable. Also, the storyline was too unrealistic to me...this story was set in the Deep, Dirty South/Mississippi and it was hard to believe some of Eula's (black main character) actions. Seriously she kidnaps a white baby and harbors a white runaway...yeah right in 2013 maybe but the 60s...I ain't b ...more
Family is forged by either blood or the heart, or if you're lucky, both.

Nine-year-old, Starla seeks solutions for her own problems, such as a threat from a mean neighbor to have her admitted to reform school, and her grandmother's strict rules that is constantly being ignored by this red-haired feisty little girl. Life is tough enough for a kid in 1963 in the American south when her mother just abandoned her and left for Nashville to get famous without her child. Starla always believed the town
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Starla is almost 10 years old when she is put on restriction AGAIN by her grandmother, where she lives in a small town in Mississippi while her father works on an oil rig. The disappointment grows when Starla realizes that she will miss the Fourth of July parade and fireworks. Told to stay home, she sneaks off to watch them anyway. Caught by a neighbor, she is put on even more restriction and when she overhears her grandmother say she will be sent to reform school,
This was like a bad sitcom. I thought the writing was kind of poor and the characters were screaming for better stories. Just not for me.
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I must say if you haven't read Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall, you're missing something gooood. Love me some Starla and Eula. The author brings her characters alive. Love this book. It's like eating a good meal at your granny's and then sitting out on the porch to watch the sun go down. Beautiful work. ...more
Jennifer Lane
The Help Meets The Secret Life of Bees

...and what a glorious meeting it is. I attribute my adoration for this 1960s Southern story to its spunky, never-quit narrator Starla.

Starla is nine years old and can't seem to stay out of trouble with her grandmother Mamie, who takes care of Starla because her momma left to pursue a music career in Nashvegas and her daddy works on an oil rig.

Naturally Starla is fascinated by her departed momma, and I was furious with Mamie for hiding packages that Starla's
Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mmd, buddy-read
1963, deep south Mississippi, and one feisty little 9 year old girl.

Starla Claudelle is growing up with her Mamie, her daddy working on an oil rig, and her momma left to become a singer in Nashville. Starla decides she's going to run away to reunite with her momma, so that she can finally have the happily ever after of her dreams.

Along the way she meets Eula, a black woman with a white baby. Things go from tricky to downright scary, and the story for me took a grittier, darker turn than I had a
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It’s one of my all time favorites. It’s the story of a young girl, Starla, and her road trip with a colored lady, Eula, in the early 60s before desegregation. This story and the characters were great. If you liked The Help, you will like this book. I listened on Audible and liked the narrator as well.
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Oh my gosh…just, wow. This book was way better than I expected it would be. If you’ve read and enjoyed Kathryn Stockett’s The Help or Julie Kibler’s Calling Me Home, you definitely want to read this gem.

It starts off a little slow but picks up speed once Starla runs away from home and meets Eula, who stole a white baby. From there on out the story takes one unexpected turn after another. The only similarities between The Help and this heartrending novel are the era in which the story plays out,
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I won an ARC copy of this on Goodreads! Can't wait to find time and read this one.

The only problem with getting a ARC copy is that I don't have anyone to talk to the book about as soon as I've finished it. I have to wait until the release date and then wait for them to read it!

I really enjoyed the story about Starla and her journey with Eula and James. Susan Crandall was able to put me into their world and really feel like I was in the 60's. You can see things thru the eyes of a child who is so
Chris Torretta
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I stayed up well into the night to finish this one. That was after I was all tucked in and comfy but just couldn't get this out of my mind. I could have read in bed but I didn't want to get drowsy, I wanted to be able to take in every detail! It was so worth it!

This starts and I really felt for Starla. Her grandmother is a bit of a pain. And boy does she have her opinions, which she thinks are truths (of course). It is about the 1960's and of course the prejudices of that time. And Susan Crandal
I would give this story a 4.5. I just couldn't put the book down! I am claiming this book as my favorite book of the year, so far.

I think that Susan Crandall does a great job getting right into the story; not a lot of character and scene set up.

I loved the spunky, nine year old, protagonist, Starla.

The story takes place down south in the 1960's. Starla lives with her cruel, bitter grandmother (Mamie) while her dad is away working. Her mom, Lulu left her and her father to become a famous singer
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this! Set in Mississippi in 1963 during the Civil Rights era. When ten-year-old Starla runs away from her verbally abusive grandmother to find her mother in Nashville who she hasn't seen in many years, she is offered a ride by a good-hearted black woman named Eula. That is the first of many times that Eula saves her. But because Eula is in an abusive relationship with her husband Wallace, Starla ends up saving her right back. This had some really tough scenes in it, but it also had many ...more
Amy Lignor
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
It is so rare in this day and age of werewolves, vampires, serial killers, etcetera, to receive a book that’s beyond witty, highly intelligent and downright charming. There’s a reason why books become ‘classics;’ it’s because people simply can’t stop reading the book. And because of the beauty of the story, they want to pass that book along for generations to come.

This is a classic. This is the Deep South at its finest, with characters from different backgrounds joining together for a road trip
I must love these coming of age books. I also like books set during the 60s (not the flower power books, the civil rights ones). I've never read Susan Crandall, but I had to take a chance on the description. I'm glad I did.

Starla is a near perfect narrator. She's a little girl, with a voice not too precious, with exactly the right amount of sass, courage and conviction. She's not too stupid either - she makes mistakes, but she pays for it and also learns. There aren't too many wrapped up in nea
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, teaching
I picked this book up at ALA in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. I had been hearing what an amazing book it is and couldn't wait to get started on it. If I could give this book 10 stars out of 5, I certainly would; it's that good!

The main character is Starla Jane Claudell, a white 9-year old girl, growing up in Mississippi in the 1960's. Starla has never considered the plight of any black people; the only ones she knows are maids in friend's homes. Starla's family is not rich enough to have any "
It’s the summer of 1963 and 9-year old Starla feels she has to run away from her grandmother’s Mississippi home to avoid the perceived possibility of being sent to reform school. Not realizing how far away Nashville is, she sets off on foot in the heat of the July afternoon with the plan of finding her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in six years. On the road beyond her town she accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman who is travelling alone with a white infant, and the three of them end up on a jo ...more
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-long-ago
This warm, funny, heart-breaking, heart-warming novel tells the story of Starla Claudelle who is the most engaging, bright, sassy, feisty, brave, lovable nine-year-old you will ever meet.

Narrated in Starla’s nine-year-old Southern voice, she begins: “My grandmother said she prays for me every day. Which was funny, because I’d only ever heard Mamie pray, ‘Dear Lord, give me strength’. That sure sounded like a prayer for herself.”

Starla runs away from her grandmother’s home hoping to get to Nashvi
Stephanie Anze
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Starla Claudelle is a feisty nine-year-old girl. As neither of her parents is apt to take care of her, she lives in Mississippi with her paternal grandmother, Mamie. Strict and proper, living with Mamie is tough for Starla. When she sneaks out to see the fourth of july parade, after being grounded, Starla is spotted by a neighbor. Afraid that Mamie will send her to reform school, Starla runs away and right into Eula. Eula, a black woman, is traveling with a white baby. The three of them will emb ...more
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern-fiction
I loved this story of the plucky 9 year old narrator, Starla Claudelle. In the story, at one point, she provides her name as Nancy Drew, who is the epitome of “plucky”. It takes place in 1963 Mississippi, which was a racially turbulent time in our country’s history. I am constantly shocked to be reminded that these horrific racial transgressions(should have been crimes) happened in my lifetime. I loved the voice of Starla, who made me laugh, smile, and recoil in horror. Susan Crandall deftly use ...more
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Alas, the rumor is true, Susan was a dental hygienist in her previous career. However, she "retired" from that profession many years ago and has been a full-time author ever since--thanks to all of you fabulous readers.

Susan grew up in a small Indiana town, married a guy from that town, and then moved to Chicago for a while. She is pleased to say that she has been back in her hometown for many yea

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“My daddy says that when you do somethin' to distract you from your worstest fears, it's like whistlin' past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that's how we get by sometimes. But it's not weak, like hidin''s strong. It means you're able to go on.” 34 likes
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