________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 8 . . . . December 9, 2005


The Crazy Man.

Pamela Porter.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books, 2005.
214 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $18.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88899-695-0 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88899-694-2 (cl.).

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Vikki VanSickle.

*** /4


That day built a room inside my head

where we all live- Daddy, Prince, Mum and me.

I want to build a door for that roomso I can shut it off,

and if I think about it real hard, maybe

I can build that door.

Because that day's living in my brain now,

and it's all colored red.

Eleven-year-old Emaline Bitterman's world is changed by a tragic farm accident that leaves her leg mangled, her dog dead, and her father missing. In the wake of her father's disappearance, her mother hires Angus, a patient from the mental hospital down the road, to help farm the land. Angus is misunderstood and feared by the community. Emaline's relationship with Angus helps her come to terms with the accident and her father's desertion.

     The Crazy Man is set in rural Saskatchewan in the 1960s. Porter has painted a believable portrait of a rural farming community. There are many kind people, such as Emaline's friend Mei and her teacher Miss Tollofsen, who help Emaline through her emotional recovery. There are also less idealized characters in the book with marked biases towards immigrants, like Mei and her family, and the mentally disabled, such as Angus. The Crazy Man is about acceptance on every level, acceptance of others, acceptance of one's circumstances, and the acceptance of oneself.

     The story is told in a collection of free verse passages from the perspective of Emaline. Porter made an excellent choice to write the novel in free verse. The concise format of the verse novel is easy to read and allows for maximum clarity. Verse novels are more similar to first person confessional novels than they are to poetry. Porter's style is fluid and realistic. Her verse is not heavy with poetic devices that might confuse a young reader. The novel reads like an interior monologue rather than a collection of poems. Emaline's voice jumps off the page and into the heart of the reader.

     The Crazy Man is deceptively simple. Porter explores large issues such as prejudice, fear, and disability with grace and honesty. The novel has beautiful, shining moments of hope. It is a must read for fans of verse novels, and its clarity makes it an excellent book to use in order to introduce children to the genre of verse novels. It bears similarities to Karen Hesse's 1998 Newbery Award winning novel, Out of the Dust. The Crazy Man has been nominated for the Governor-General's Literary Award.


Vikki VanSickle is a student in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia. Originally from Woodstock, ON, she is now residing in Vancouver, BC.

[Editor’s note: The Crazy Man was the winner of the 2005 Governor General's Literary Award in the category of children's literature (English text).]


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