School Library Journal (SLJ) February Reviews
DONAHUE, Marilyn Cram. When the Crickets Stopped Singing. 288p. Calkins Creek. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629797236.
Gr 4-6-Twelve-year-old Angie anticipates another routine yet carefree summer in her small California town. But it’s 1939 and Hitler’s rise to power in Europe, coupled with the return to town of Jefferson Clement, a seemingly popular WWI hero, soon have Angie asking a disturbing question: How can adults witness evil and not do anything about it? As Angie and her friends look for an answer, they uncover lurid secrets to which locals have turned a blind eye. Their search leads to a tragic confrontation that forces Angie to decide between truth, lies, and justice. Donahue creates a memorable pair of antagonists in glib Jefferson and affable ne’er-do-well Willie Jack: both are war heroes, but the townspeople judge them very differently. Jefferson and Willie Jack’s role in the novel’s climax and its aftermath further underscores a recurring theme of the dangers of false appearances. A leisurely pace, careful language, and a nostalgic tone blunt the novel’s grave topic of child molestation, making it appropriate for younger readers or classroom discussion. An afterword challenges readers to put themselves in Angie’s place and consider if they would make the same choices. Some comparisons Donahue poses to readers may tend toward the simplistic but align with the novel’s gentle handling of a serious topic. VERDICT A thoughtful historical fiction and coming-of-age story; purchase for larger collections.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY