Whistling Past the Graveyard

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In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old spitfire Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three—that’s when Lulu left for Nashville to become a famous singer. Starla’s daddy works on an oil rig in the Gulf, so Mamie, with her tsk-tsk sounds and her bitter refrain of “Lord, give me strength,” is the nearest thing to family Starla has. After being put on restriction yet again for her sassy mouth, Starla is caught sneaking out for the Fourth of July parade. She fears Mamie will make good on her threat to send Starla to reform school, so Starla walks to the outskirts of town, and just keeps walking. . . . If she can get to Nashville and find her momma, then all that she promised will come true: Lulu will be a star. Daddy will come to live in Nashville, too. And her family will be whole and perfect. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. The trio embarks on a road trip that will change Starla’s life forever. She sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.
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  • Gallery Books | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476707723 | 
  • July 2013
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Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

From an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing roadtrip.

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Whistling Past the Graveyard


July 1963

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—and Mrs. Knopp in Sunday school always said our prayers should only ask for things for others. Once I made the mistake of saying that out loud to Mamie and got slapped into next Tuesday for my sassy mouth. My mouth... see more

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Reading Group Guide

i>This reading group guide for Whistling Past the Graveyard includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. But Starla never dreams that she's about to embark on a journey that will change her life forever. When Starla’s strict grandmother and guardian grounds her on the Fourth of July, Starla decides to run away from her Mississippi home and go to Nashville, to seek her mother who had abandoned her. On the road, Starla finds an unlikely ally in Eula—a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse. Through a series of unforeseen events, the black woman and the white girl band together on a path to self-discovery. As they travel, Starla's eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 Southern segregation. Through her discussions with Eula, reconnection with both her parents, and a series of surprising misadventures, Starla begins to realize that having a life with the perfect family might look drastically different from how she dreamed it would.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. By telling the story from Starla’s point of view, we get to look see more

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