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