Release Date: April 4th 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Buy It: Book Depository | Amazon.ca
It’s the Depression, but Red’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 has plenty of chores around the farm, and the days can be long, but he still gets the odd break to go swimming or fishing... provided his homework is done.The back of this book compares it to Anne of Green Gables, and it really is that sort of novel with a male main character. It's written in the kind of language that does take the reader back to the thirties, and the writing flows easily. The book is divided into several distinct, but connected stories which makes it good for reading in chunks, though the whole novel is still a really fast read. Some of the sections– like one where Red's father injures himself– are sadder, while others– like when Red's Granny visits– are funnier, but they all have a taste of both humour and emotion within them.
As easy as the book was to read, there was some language that left me a little confused, like when Gilmore writes: "Ellen complained that he raced through his recitations with no expression whatsoever, but Red figured getting through it mattered more than any highfaultin expression." Obviously language was different eighty years ago but it's hard to imagine this ruddy farm boy that prefers building things to reading using the word highfaultin, and it felt out of place (and not just because I had no idea what it meant).
That Boy Red wasn't the kind of book that I would have gone seeking out myself, but when I had a surprise copy in my mailbox I decided to give it a try. For the short time it took to read it, I guess I'm glad I did; I feel like it's a good contribution to Canadian history and a great addition to elementary school libraries for that reason. But it also wasn't a book I felt in love it, in the emotional all-encompassing way that some novels sweep me off my feet. Instead, it was a book that I enjoyed, and it had some nice moments. Ultimately, I'd recommend That Boy Red to the middle grade readers looking for the a male Anne of Green Gables, and would hope it would hit the mark for them in the way that it didn't quite manage for me.