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Children's Fiction Alternative Family

The Crazy Man

by (author) Pamela Porter

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Jul 2005
Alternative Family, Farm & Ranch Life, Depression & Mental Illness
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2006
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2005
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jul 2005
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


It is 1965, and twelve-year-old Emaline lives on a wheat farm in southern Saskatchewan. Her family has fallen apart. When her beloved dog, Prince, chased a hare into the path of the tractor, she chased after him, and her dad accidentally ran over her leg with the discer, leaving her with a long convalescence and a permanent disability. But perhaps the worst thing from Emaline's point of view is that in his grief and guilt, her father shot Prince and then left Emaline and her mother on their own.

Despite the neighbors' disapproval, Emaline's mother hires Angus, a patient from the local mental hospital, to work their fields. Angus is a red-haired giant whom the local kids tease and call the gorilla. Though the small town's prejudice creates a cloud of suspicion around Angus that nearly results in tragedy, in the end he becomes a force for healing as Emaline comes to terms with her injury and the loss of her father.

In the tradition of novels such as Kevin Major's Ann and Seamus and Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust, novelist and poet Pamela Porter uses free verse to tell this moving, gritty story that is accessible to a wide range of ages and reading abilities.

About the author

Pamela Porter was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and she lived in New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Washington and Montana before emigrating to Canada with her husband, the fourth generation of a farm family in southeastern Saskatchewan, the backdrop for much of Pamela's work. She is the author of three collections of poetry, and her poems have appeared in numerous journals across Canada and the US as well as being featured on Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. She is also the author of a number of children’s books, including Sky and Yellow Moon, Apple Moon (illustrated by Matt James).


Pamela's first novel in verse, The Crazy Man, received the TD Children's Literature Award, the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award for Children, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and the Governor General's Award, as well as several children's choice awards. It was also named a Jane Addams Foundation Honor Book and won the Texas Institute of Letters, Friends of the Austin Public Library Award for Best Young Adult Book.


Pamela lives near Sidney, B.C., with her husband, children and a menagerie of rescued horses, dogs and cats.

Pamela Porter's profile page


  • Commended, IBBY Honor List
  • Winner, Rocky Mountain Book Award
  • Winner, Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award
  • Winner, Hackmatack Award
  • Long-listed, Michigan Reading Association's "Great Lakes Great Books"
  • Long-listed, OLA Silver Birch Award
  • Long-listed, Children's Crown Award
  • Winner, OLA Golden Oak Award
  • Long-listed, CBA Libris Award - Children's Author of the Year
  • Long-listed, Chocolate Lily Award
  • Winner, TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
  • Commended, CCBC Our Choice (Starred Selection)
  • Winner, CLA Book of the Year for Children Award
  • Long-listed, SYRCA Snow Willow Award
  • Winner, Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
  • Short-listed, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award
  • Short-listed, City of Victoria Butler Book Prize
  • Commended, OLA Best Bets - Top 10 Fiction
  • Commended, Jane Addams Children's Book Award - Books for Older Children
  • Winner, Texas Institute of Letters Friends of the Austin Public Library Award for Best Y
  • Winner, Governor General's Literary Awards: Text

Editorial Reviews's deceptively simple, rewardingly rich.

Quill & Quire

Among the pleasures of this novel are the muted longing in the young girl's expression, the explications of the 1960s definitions of crazy - and, perhaps most impressively, Porter's play with a verbal colour palette that tempts us to read this initiation narrative as impressionism, studied in its composite detail, and intelligently sentimental.

Canadian Literature

Powerfully told in poetic verse, this story is fast paced and heartfelt.

Brandon Sun

This...would be a valuable addition to young adult collections

Resource Links

The marvel of this novel is that language as plainspoken as Porter's can be as revelatory as those prairie plains themselves....Porter cultivates her characters and her plot with huge deftness and tenderness.

Globe and Mail

Subtle in its themes and organization, this book is pure pleasure, offering lessons about love, loyalty, and loss.

School Library Journal

...[a] moving, gritty story...accessible to a wide range of ages and reading abilities. It is amazing how much emotion and character Porter manages to convey with so few words.

VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

...Potter's free-verse narrative explores prejudice, fear, and disability with quiet grace.

Book Links

A richly written character study containing echoes of To Kill a Mocking Bird's Scout Finch and Boo Radley and Of Mice and Men's Lennie, The Crazy Man, which explores prejudices in many forms, is a quick read meriting several rereadings. Highly Recommended.

Canadian Children's Literature - CBRA

...a rich, full story of growth and questioning...

Toronto Star

...a touching portrait of a real-seeming girl, set in a well-delineated time and place.

Horn Book

Librarian Reviews

The Crazy Man

It’s no wonder that The Crazy Man won the Governor General’s Literary Award (Children’s Literature, English-language text). It’s a wonderfully written story, told in poetry, that exposes society’s view of mental illness. It also tells of the struggle that comes when families break apart, and the children are left to wonder if it was something that they had done.

Emaline is your typical Grade 6 girl, until an accident involving a tractor and the family dog leaves her with a severed leg. Although she doesn’t lose her leg, her father blames himself for the incident. While she is at the hospital, he shoots their dog and abandons his family. Emaline and her mother are left to tend their Saskatchewan farm on their own.

When none of the neighbours are willing to help, they hire Angus, a local resident from the mental hospital. The town doesn’t like it and they have no qualms about making life hard on poor Angus. This story will make you both angry and concerned, but it is in those moments when you laugh that you most see yourself in the people surrounding Emaline.

The way the townsfolk react to Angus is no differently than how we react to street people. Their fright is our fright. And yet, Angus is just a man who is as frightened by his mental labyrinth as we are.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2006. Vol.29 No. 1.

The Crazy Man

Emaline’s devastated by a terrible farm accident, but healing comes about in unexpected ways. A moving story, told in free verse, that deals with loss, disabilities and hope.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Canadian Children’s Book News. 2006.

Other titles by Pamela Porter