Mama Seeton’s Whistle

Jerry Spinelli

Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

The enduring bond between a mother and her four children is delightfully demonstrated through a simple act—the mother’s “simple, two-note whistle” to call her children home. Whether the children are young or grown, whether they are in their own backyard or scattered through the world, their mother’s whistle beckons them. Though plain and sparing, Spinelli’s words capture the affections of a close-knit family and the joys of its members through rituals of family dinners and homemade chocolate cake. They conjure a simpler time when children roamed and played at each other’s’ homes for all hours, and were only called away from friends at dinnertime by their parents. Based on Spinelli’s childhood neighbor, Mama Seeton’s character and life from a bygone era are captured perfectly by the charming illustrations, from Mama Seeton’s clothing and hair style to the cars, bicycles, and a neighbor’s black-and-white television. Rendered in ink and watercolor, the artwork effectively conveys the children’s escapades and their growth and development through the years. One scene beautifully portrays the passage of time by capturing the neighborhood during the four seasons across the page, while others show the children’s exploits through the town and then all over the world as adults. A ribbon of pink twirls through the air in the pages, showing the connection between mother and children. The words and gorgeous pictures complement each other flawlessly, sure to resonate with adult readers with its sense of nostalgia while giving its young readers a sense of comfort, safety, and love.

Reviewer: Ann L. Kreske