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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.


WHISTLE IN THE DARK has been named the 2015 winner of the Eloise Jarvis McGraw Award for Children’s Literature, from Literary-Arts and the Oregon Book Awards. It’s also on the 2015-2016 Arkansas State Reading List for the Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award.

An excerpt of WHISTLE IN THE DARK was awarded the Katherine Paterson Prize, middle-grade fiction category (judge, Katherine Paterson) from Hunger Mountain, the journal of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. It was also a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2013, and a Bank Street Best Book of 2014.

“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.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This coming-of-age story is eloquently told, and the characters are particularly well crafted… The story never feels episodic or overdrawn despite the multiple plot threads; the events are precisely paced, and the story unfolds naturally. … readers who have witnessed Clem’s struggles and growth over the course of the novel wouldn’t have [the ending] any other way.”–Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

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

“beautifully crafted historical fiction…”–Augusta Scattergood, Christian Science Monitor

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