Mama Seeton's Whistle
When Jerry Spinelli was growing up in Pennsylvania his neighbor,
Thelma Seeton, made the world's best chocolate cake. She and her taxi
driver husband had a bunch of kids and a special way of summoning
them. Lucky for us Spinelli shared this colorful and evocative story
with readers in Mama Seeton's Whistle.
One day Mama Seeton can't locate her two-year-old son, Skippy.
Understandably she's worried. Then "Without even thinking about it,
Mama Seeton puckered her lips and whistled.
It was not a loud whistle.
Or a fancy whistle.
Just a simple, two note whistle." It does the job. Skippy and later
his younger siblings, hearing that whistle, drop everything to return
home for supper and that famous chocolate cake. Gradually their
places for play and exploration expand. Even then that whistle
reliably draws them to their house.
Sadly eventually they grow up and go their separate ways.
Stewart gets as far as Africa. Mama Seeton gets letters but still
longs for the old days. One day when she doesn't touch her supper her
husband knows that something has to be done.
LeUyen Phem found Mama Seeton's Whistle to be an intimidating
and fun book to illustrate. It involved quite a bit of research which
she compared to time travel. She had to learn not only the time line
for a very particular family, but the clothes and hairstyles of
different eras. Papa Seeton, for example, has a 1965 Chevrolet, not
any old generic car.
There was, however, one aspect of the story she did not need to
research. "...And as the story reached its climax, with Mama Seeton
yearning sweetly for her children, I found myself emotional along with
her, because being a mother means being enveloped in such a range and
depth of emotion through your children. Mama Seeton is a very real
personification of motherhood, and I did my best to portray her with
On a personal note, I can identify with Mama Seeton. My beloved
younger daughter, Katie, who graduated from UMaine summa cum laude,
now lives in Portland where she has a great job. I'm glad it's
Portland, Maine, not Portland, Oregon. I'm happy her life is going so
well. But I miss her like crazy.
A great big shout goes out to all the other moms, and I suspect some
dads, who are missing their beloved children.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod