It’s the Depression, but Red MacRae’s family is managing better than most on their Prince Edward Island farm. Hard working and resourceful, they have enough to eat and to help others, even if at times they are mocked by their neighbours for putting education ahead of farm work. Eleven-year-old Red, with his preference for woodworking, doesn’t always shine at the school, but he can’t slack off – his older sister, Ellen, is the local teacher and she simply won’t tolerate it.
But when Red’s father is injured, the family’s situation looks dire. Red must step up to the challenge to finish the tobacco boxes that his father makes and help shovel out a train that is stuck in the snow. Stubborn, even pig-headed, Red makes many mistakes along the way – and lands himself in the midst of some hair-raising adventures involving horses, lost sisters, outhouses and aeroplanes – but his heart is always in the right place.
Reading That Boy Red is like reading about the precocious little boy you love to baby-sit – the one that leaves you exhausted running around after him, and despairing that he’ll ever settle down and mature, but ultimately surprises you when it counts.
Red is a young boy living in Depression era Prince Edward Island with his mom, dad, brother and two sisters. And occasionally a grannie, to Red’s despair. Red’s older sister is his teacher, his young sister will follow him around, and his brother is the “good one”. But Red, for all his mischief, can be counted on when it’s needed and cares for his family deeply. He’s just adventurous!
I finished reading That Boy Red and had that giddy little sigh I do after I finish a book that made me all kinds of content and happy. Red’s story is comfortable and familiar. Each chapter is an episode that leads the reader through important events in a year of Red’s life. From a visit from grannie, to his dad’s accident and a snowed-in train, I alternated between groaning at Red’s antics to feeling so proud of him for stepping up and helping out when things got tough. I highly enjoyed Rachna Gilmore’s writing style; the voice for her characters came through loud and clear, and the entire time I was reading I felt like I was in the 1930s.
That Boy Red has the gossipy, everyone-knows-everyone, simpler-if-harder times feel to it that makes me long for one-room school houses, playing outdoors and clear country winter nights. And even though I did not grow up in the 30s (far from it), parts of Red’s life and home reminded me so strongly of my own childhood it was crazy. This is one story that just made me comfortable, calm, happy and sad. It was a story of life – no big frills or daring adventures, just the every day ups and downs of life. I highly recommend it.
Review copy provided by HarperCollins Canada in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!