As the managing editor of FreeFall I have come to know Pamela Porter through the wonderful poems that she has submitted and FreeFall has published, never guessing that she was also a children’s author. I was pleasantly surprised to recently attend a reading and launch of her newest children’s novel set in Saskatchewan in the ‘dirty 30’s’ I’ll Be Watching, Groundwood books .
While there I also came across an earlier novel The Crazy Man, (2005) Groundwood books winner of a Governor General’s Literary Award, the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the Rocky Mountain Book Award, the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award, Ontario Library Association Best Bets, Jane Addams Children’s Book Award – Honor Book and the Texas Institute of Letters, Friends of the Austin Public Library Award for Best Young Adult Book. Wow. The Crazy Man is also set in small town Saskatchewan, but this time 1965. Emaline, an 11 or 12 year old girl is injured in a farm accident and while we follow her healing progress we come to learn of the misunderstanding surrounding mental illness that was prevalent during that time period.
It is easy to see why The Crazy Man picked up so many awards, it is outstanding. Written entirely in verse it captures the essence of the time and place as well as the characters. The Chapter/verse that defines the Saskatchewan I remember from visits to my grandparents is “Harvest, At Last” in the lines:
Me, I’m filled with the wind, sky, smell
Of ground, harvest dust in my nose,
My lungs, the land in my skin and hair.
I’m land, I’m sky.
I’m Saskatchewan. (173)
I’ll Be Watching is proving to be every bit as age and character defining as The Crazy Man was and I’m sure will garner a collection of awards. They are both outstanding books and can be enjoyed by children of any age, even 80. I highly recommend them.
by Lynn C. Fraser