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Friday, November 25, 2011

That Boy Red, written by Rachna Gilmore. Harper, 2011. $11.99 ages 8 and up

"Red felt the knot in his back twist tighter. That was the trouble with Mac; he was entirely too easygoing. Red could hardly keep protesting now, all by himself, especially with Ma looking at him like that, and Aunt Lina acting so pleased."

This book was great fun to's based on the stories told by Rachna Gilmore's father-in-law about life on Prince Edward Island during the Depression. Red is the youngest son in a family of five children, and he is the character around whom most of the stories are built.

 Red has many attributes that will draw readers to enjoy these life stories. He is inquisitive and determined. He is always up for an adventure, and is quick and capable. He likes the humorous, and even learns to deal with it in respect to himself.

As you read his tales of farm life, you will be surprised to learn how hard children worked on the farm. He and his brother Mac are given many responsibilities, and are expected to do their share of the daily chores. Their little sister Bunch is too young to be much help and in fact, her care is also one of the expectations made of the boys when their parents are away from home. Their sister Ellen is the local teacher, and has the great pleasure of having her younger brothers in her schoolroom. Their older brother Alex is away at school, and Ellen is helping pay for his education...just as Alex will help when it is time for Mac to attend. And so on....everyone takes care of the others, and does a share of the work that makes the farm and family work.

Prince Edward Island is also a character in Ms. Gilmore's tale...we learn much about the land, community life, the people who inhabit it and their support for their fellow islanders. There are many obstacles to be overcome, challenges to be faced and supports to be given when others are in need.

Here are six stories meant to be shared. They can easily be enjoyed over a period of days. They provide a historically accurate description of island life and the hardship that the Depression brought to many. But, there is always a sense of hopeful and spirited tenacity, which I suspect is just part of the fabric of the people of Prince Edward Island. Readers will come to know the family, the farm, their neighbors and the day-to-day experiences that provide fodder for the tales told. Each one is integral to the others, and they happen chronologically.

History? Yes. Boring? Never.

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