By Pamela Porter
Published by Groundwood Books
ISBN # 0-88899-695-0
The Crazy Man is a beautifully written free-verse novel that focuses on a tragedy of misunderstanding. Set in 1960’s Saskatchewan, eleven-year-old Emaline Bitterman is living with her parents in a rural farming community when her life is changed by a tragic farming accident. As a result, Emaline’s dog is killed, her leg is crippled, and her father goes missing.
In an effort to continue farming their land despite her husband’s disappearance, Emaline’s mother hires Angus, a released patient from the local mental hospital. Despite her original mistrust and fear of Angus, Emaline gradually comes to accept him and he, in turn, helps Emaline begin recovering emotionally.
Porter’s decision to write the novel to in free verse adds to the dimensions of Emaline’s character. The free verse format allows for clarity and realism, reading like an internal monologue of Emaline’s grief. Porter deftly avoids saturating her verse with poetic devices and instead explores important themes such as prejudice, disability, acceptance, loss and hope.
Winner of the 2005 Governor General Literary Award for Children's Literature, The Crazy Man would make an excellent addition to literature circles or as a class novel for grades five to seven. It is a great introduction to the free verse novel format for younger readers who are capable of tackling “big idea” themes.