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Whistle for Willie

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats follows the story of Peter, a boy who cannot for the life of him whistle! Whistling is tricky to nail down, but Peter does not give up on his dream.  

When Peter witnesses an older boy whistling for his dog, he realizes that he also wishes to whistle. In an attempt to whistle for his dachshund, Willie, he can’t make a sound. Continuing to practice on his walk home, he realizes he has his work cut out for him. Peter puts on his dad’s hat to feel more grown up in hopes that it will change his ability to whistle. Going back out into the world, Peter again tries to whistle for his dog, Willie. This time when he blows, a real whistle occurs, and Willie comes racing to greet him. Feeling accomplished and proud, Willie and Peter run home to show his mom and dad his new skill, whistling all the way! 

Keats does a wonderful job portraying the whimsicalness of childhood. Streetlights dance in the background as Peter spins and experiences dizziness, girls share a jump rope on the street, a cat can be seen in the window of a hair parlor, and later, graffiti spells out the words “me” and “cat”. Keats’ art was ahead of his time, using color and patterns together that had not yet been seen. This story was written and first published in 1964, paving the way for more diverse characters amongst children’s books.  

We give Whistle for Willie five feathers for Innovation, as it is a story about perseverance and creative thinking! When one attempt to whistle does not work, Peter finds a new and creative way to try to accomplish his goal.  


Conversations to Have With Your Children When Reading Whistle for Willie: 

  • Can you whistle?  
  • What are all the ways Peter plays and explores his home and neighborhood? How many ways can we play and explore in our own home? 
  • How many hidden things can you spot throughout Peter’s adventure?