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Oregon Book Awards Finalist Susan Hill Long

You can cast your vote for the 2015 Readers’ Choice Award online at www.literary-arts.org/voteOBA! The winner will be announced at the Oregon Book Awards ceremony on April 13 at the Gerding Theater at the Armory.

Between now and April 13, we will be featuring all of the 2015 Oregon Book Awards finalists.

whistle2015 Oregon Book Awards Finalist

Whistle in the Dark by Susan Hill Long


Children’s Literature


Holiday House

About the book: 

What Clem wants for his thirteenth birthday is a dog. What he gets is a miner’s cap. It’s the 1920s in Leadanna, Missouri, and money is tight in the Harding household. So, Clem, a gifted student and talented writer, must leave school and join Pap in the lead mines, spending his days digging in the suffocating dark beneath the crushing weight of the earth.

While searching for another way to help support his family—Grampy’s suffering from miner’s consumption and little sister Esther with epilepsy—Clem meets Lindy, the daughter of a local moonshiner, whose face bears a scar from a terrible accident. The two become friends, but soon a series of disasters strike, including a devastating tornado.

Clem’s friendship with Lindy and the devotion of a remarkable stray dog help him to reconcile his dreams with the reality of family responsibility and face some hard decisions about his future.

This beautifully written coming-of-age novel shines with true characters, a vivid setting, and heart-felt relationships.

About the author: 

Susan Hill Long’s fiction has appeared in Hunger Mountain and she’s the author of several books for beginning readers. Her honors include Publishers Weekly Best Book, Bank Street Best Book, and the Katherine Paterson Prize. She is working on her next novel, to be published by Knopf in 2016.

Excerpt from Whistle in the Dark:

It was June, the middle of the day Clem was to quit being a boy.

They were all in rows watching Miss Bedelia Pipe chalk out on the board a problem Clem wasn’t going to bother with. Normally he would, but not today. Clem stared out the window at the sky, clear and blue until it bumped against the rocky knob of Goggin Mountain.

The classroom windows opened onto the redbuds that marked the edges of the dry playground, but there was no breeze coming in. Clem sighed deeply, and picked up the scent of the lone bull pine that towered over the school yard’s western boundary, a tree foreign to these parts, its seed dropped by a tornado some years back. He smelled, too, the dusty heat of packed dirt, and the lead of the pencil, and also a whiff of something different, maybe some rain on the way, and he filled his chest with all of it, as if he might never smell those normal kinds of things again.

He heard the small sound of someone standing beside him, and opened his eyes on Miss Pipe, framed by the window. One hand held papers against her dress; the other hand she reached out to Clem as if to say Come along, or maybe Stay put. …

The assignment had been to write two hundred fifty words on the topic “I believe.” Clem had tried to remember the things Miss Pipe lectured about. Use metaphor and simile, choose descriptive words and action words, avoid the run-on sentence. Across the top margin of his paper was written an A and one comment in Miss Pipe’s firm lettering: Good Luck.

Susan Hill Long’s website: 



Publisher’s Weekly

[starred review] “Long writes with modest restraint, never drifting into sentimentality or overpowering the story with historical details, while remaining squarely centered in the story’s time and place. The novel sings with graceful recurring motifs, true emotions, and devastating observations about the beauty that can be found in the darkest hours.”


“As engaging historical fiction does best, this debut novel…vividly brings to light a period in time where values prove timeless.”

School Library Journal

“Well-developed characters, rapid plot development, and interesting scenes make this a debut that will appeal to reluctant readers.”

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