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Looking for Red

Looking for Red

4.0 11
by Angela Johnson

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Twelve-year-old Mike — short for Michaela — loves the ocean. The sights, sounds, and smells of her coastal home are embedded in her very soul.
But Michaela loves her brother, Red, even more.
Then one day Red disappears. One minute he's there, the next...gone. No warning. No time to prepare. And Mike must come to terms with that loss or risk


Twelve-year-old Mike — short for Michaela — loves the ocean. The sights, sounds, and smells of her coastal home are embedded in her very soul.
But Michaela loves her brother, Red, even more.
Then one day Red disappears. One minute he's there, the next...gone. No warning. No time to prepare. And Mike must come to terms with that loss or risk never finding comfort in what remains of the life she and her brother once shared.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Booklist Johnson's latest novel — part mystery, part ghost story, and part coming-of-age narrative — is chilling and heartbreaking....In beautiful prose, the narrative moves fluidly from flashbacks to the present, and the stages of grief are represented in startling but realistic ways.

Publishers Weekly Those mourning a loss are likely to find Mike's incisive observations familiar and comforting.

Publishers Weekly
A middle-schooler's brother disappears one day. As she weaves scattered recollections of her brother into what PW called "an affecting account" of how she deals with the pain of his death, she slowly brings the particulars of the tragedy into focus. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This lyrical and engaging novel is divided into four spare, but compelling, parts¾ missing, looking, listening, and moving on¾all stages that accompany loss. Michaela's teenaged brother, Red, is gone. How Mike, her family, and Red's two closest friends are affected in the aftermath of his disappearance is the focus of this mysterious story. Mike dwells upon her own daily childhood memories of her brother, fishing with him and listening to his tales of mapmakers and sea monsters. She also sees regular apparitions of him leaning against their shed. Is Red really gone? What's the true story behind his death that only Mike, Mona, and Mark know? Anticipating the answers to these questions will keep readers involved to the end. The book combines a powerful mixture of slow-paced remembrance with a page-turning need for answers. "It's like walking barefoot in a room full of glass, when someone you love goes away," says Mike. Readers will often feel the same way as they share her painful, but healing, journey. 2002, Simon & Schuster,
— Betty Hicks
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2002: Author of Toning the Sweep and Heaven, two Coretta Scott King Award winners about difficult family transitions, Johnson turns to the subject of grief in Looking for Red. Mike (Michaela) is the younger sister of Red, who disappeared into the sea about three months ago; Mike still sees him here and there and looks for him everywhere. Red's girlfriend Mona and best friend Mark are also having their terrors over the loss, as are Cassie and Frank, the parents. They live in a small Cape Cod community, wedded year-round to the sea. Johnson uses her usual prose-poem style to tell a brief story that is deeper, wider, longer than the words themselves. "And it's harder than ever now 'cause I haven't ever been without him in the fall. No season change, for that matter. Because he was here, alive, at the beginning of the summer, I guess I thought if it stayed warm, I could keep him somehow. I haven't seen Red since the night on the widow's walk. Maybe he smelled fall coming too. Maybe it was time for him to lean and dance somewhere else." There really isn't any other YA author remotely like Angela Johnson. (Note: The cover for the paperback edition is wonderful.) KLIATT Codes: J*-Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2002, Simon & Schuster, Pulse, 116p., Ages 12 to 15.
— Claire Rosser
Mike (Michaela) is fourteen years old when her seventeen-year-old brother, Red, disappears. They were very close. Mike had even tagged along when Red ran away from home to become a fisherman years ago. Mike and her family live on the Cape, and the ocean and salt air are a part of her, just as Red is. Red's girlfriend, Mona, and his best friend, Mark, are also her friends. Mike is devastated by the loss of Red, as are Mona, Mark, and her parents. Each handles the loss differently yet tries to help the others. Slowly, with lots of help from her aunt, a neighbor, the blue glass beads her brother so loved, her memories of Red, and the release of a secret, Mike begins to feel that she can move on. Beautifully told, the book reveals love and grief as the mystery of what happened to Red unfolds. Just as in her Coretta Scott King Award-winners, Toning the Sweep (Orchard Books, 1993/VOYA June 1993) and Heaven (Simon & Schuster, 1998/VOYA February 1999), Johnson's writing is spare and lyrical. Readers care about the characters and feel their emotions. The pictures conjured up by the words take readers into the characters' lives and leave them the better for it. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Simon & Schuster, 128p, Levine
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8 Mike, 12, describes what her life on Cape Cod has been like since her older brother disappeared while swimming in the ocean three months earlier. She still sees Red leaning against the shed and in her dreams. She isolates herself from others who are also grieving, especially Red's best friend, Mark, and his girlfriend, Mona, who were there with her when he drowned. In the fall, Mike begins interacting with her friends again and sees her brother less. She finally tells her aunt about the pact that Mark and Red had made: if Red swam out to a buoy and back, Mark would give him his car. Mona had encouraged him and Mike herself had been hopeful he would win the bet. With the secret told, Red walks out of her dreams. The strength of this story is the accurate portrayal of the surreal nature of grief laden with guilt that the three young people are experiencing. Short chapters include scenes that alternate from before and after the drowning, and piecing them together and making sense of them will be a challenge to some readers. Potentially therapeutic, this is not as lucid as similar titles such as Marion Dane Bauer's On My Honor (Clarion, 1986), Eve Bunting's Blackwater (HarperCollins, 1999), and Paul Fleischman's Whirligig (Holt, 1998). -Jean Gaffney, Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library, Miamisburg, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Simon Pulse
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 9

The first time I knew my brother, Red, was still around was the day Frank and Cassie broke down outside Boston with two flat tires. It's only now that I think that it was all Red's doing. He needed time to let me know that he is...Just us again.

Two flat tires. One after the other, and me at home waiting for them.

People see missing persons all the time and don't know that they are. They sit beside them at movies and shop beside them in stores and pass them on the street. You don't know these people, so how could you recognize that someone, somewhere, is missing them?

So I'm telling Caroline all about it now, 'cause who else would believe me?

Caroline says that her and Frank used to tell each other stories that scared them so bad that they had to sleep with the light on.

The winter stories were scarier than the summer ones because of the quiet of the falling snow. Not a sound sometimes. Not one. And no kids running around late through the projects where they lived, ignoring their parents yelling for them to come into too-hot apartments for the night.

Caroline says that what my dad believed in then was no indication of what a doubting old man he'd turn into.

She said it real sad, like it was the worst thing in the world. She said — and let me get this right — that Frank used to suspend disbelief. Now he was just a disbeliever.

Caroline says that sometimes being old has to be just about the most boring thing in the world to be.


Now it's the beads and fishing with Caroline and not being home enough to be reminded.

Now it's sitting in the window looking out at the water, feeling Red within the waves, hearing him in the surf. Now is me not wanting to be anywhere or with anybody, or to know anything about what is going on in the world.

Before now was all the times with me and Red. Like the day before he disappeared, when I didn't know a damned thing about how life without him would be.

That day Red smoked a cigarette behind the garden shed and blew smoke rings at me while I tried to inhale them. When he saw me trying to inhale, he put the cig out with heel of his boot and shook his head, smiling that Red smile at me.

I saw him again today, leaning against the garden shed. No cigarette, though. Red leaned against the north wall and looked relaxed. I sat on the back of the couch in the living room and looked down at him and knocked at the window to get his attention. I knocked for about ten minutes, until Cassie screamed that she would go out of her natural mind if I didn't stop that noise.

I wanted to tell her that Red was down there, standing against the shed.

Not smoking, like the last time I saw him there.

Not smiling, like the last time I saw him.

And not alive, like the last time I saw him there.

But he was gone.

Red's girlfriend, Mona, has big brown eyes and always puts her arms around me when I get close enough. She smells like powdered sugar and strawberry licorice.

"Sweet," Red used to call her. He said she was and always would be.

And he was the only one Mona said she would ever love, and she knew it once he was gone.

"Hey, beautiful thing," she calls to me as I am walking past the Ice Kreem Kastle over by the Tides Motel. She sits underneath a table umbrella sipping something and waving away flies.

"Come on over here and give me a hug."

I do.

"How you been, beautiful?" Then she puts her fingers down into her cup and flicks whatever it is at me.

Copyright © 2002 by Angela Johnson

Meet the Author

Angela Johnson has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, one each for her novels The First Part Last, Heaven, and Toning the Sweep. The First Part Last was also the recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award. She is also the author of the novels Looking for Red and A Certain October. Her books for younger readers include the Coretta Scott King Honor Book When I Am Old with You, illustrated by David Soman; Wind Flyers and I Dream of Trains, both illustrated by Loren Long; and Lottie Paris Lives Here and its sequel Lottie Paris and the Best Place, both illustrated by Scott M. Fischer. Additional picture books include A Sweet Smell of Roses, Just Like Josh Gibson, The Day Ray Got Away, and All Different Now. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Kent, Ohio. Visit her at AJohnsonAuthor.com.

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Looking for Red 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this case, Michaela loves the ocean but loves her beloved bother Red even more, but one day Red disappeared on the cost of Cape Cod. Mike short for Michaela struggles with lost of his brother Red. The theme of the story deathful involves a very deep sadness. It is an ocean of pain because he died in the ocean. The reason he die was because he made a bit with his two friends and her sister that he would swim to the buoy and back, half way back he vanished. Grief is also one of the themes of the stories. Michaela grief's by sharing the life she and her bother once shared. I recommended this book because it shares sadness, grief and courage. We can also compared our lives with the situation that Mike went through because somewhere in our life's we at least have someone that we appreciate and still love no matter if it's a brother fiend or part of our family or hearts. The author Angela Johnson did a good job. The writer made us think of questions regarding Mike situation. For example, how long did it take Mike to over heal with death of her bother because some us made take us weeks or months. This story brings tears to your eyes. This also helps you how Mike try to move on with her life with Red because everywhere that Red went she was always with him and Red did not mind taking her. This can help you remember the good times you had with the beloved person.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Looking For Red Have you ever wondered what how your life would be without your brother? Well that is exactly what happened to the main character in this book. A 13 year old, girl named Michelle is that the main character is in this book. She lost her brother named Red. In the book she as well as red girlfriend and best friend have to learn how to get over him. The book¿s content is overall an easy to read book that is appropriate for the ages 11-14. Since some of the words in the book are not the language younger kids can listen to. The author does a great job in explaining the emotion of the characters according to how they are feeling about a certain issue that is going on. Through out the book some people have flash backs. For example, Michelle has a flashback on how Red used to stand near on the post located in the front of the house and smoke while watching the smoke blow through his face. The book is full of exciting moments to remember Red. There is another interesting flashback that is important. Red¿s best friend drives into the restaurant where Red used to eat his clams and lemon. Some people say that the reason that he did that was to commit suicide and go with Red.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I used this book to pretend i was reading in class but at first i thought it was interesting but guess what? it was darn boring you ought of not read this book my oppinion but if you want to read it or like it its up to you its what ever you like im just giving my thought!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought Looking for Red was a great book because it showed you should be grateful and thankful that you have a little brother or sister. You should be thankful because you may never know when you lose them. Some brothers and sisters fight over nothing and don't know when it's their time to die. Looking for Red is about a twelve-year-old girl who's name is Mike. Mike is short for Michaela. She loves the ocean, the sights, sounds, and smells of her coastal home are placed in her very soul. Michaela loves her brother, Red, even more. Then one day Red disappears. One minute he's there, the next he's gone. Mike must come to terms with that loss or risk never finding comfort in what remains of the life she and her brother once shared. I think that having a brother or a sister means to bond, to love, and share or work out your disagreements. It's not all about fighting everytime, it's about sharing the love you have for one another. That's why I always pray that nothing bad never happens to my brother because I love my brother with all my heart and soul. I would never let anything bad happen to him. I thought this book was a very good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that this book would be perfect for students or adults that would love to sit down and figure out and figure out clues and also put the pieces together . Me! I'm not that person I feel as if this book only represents what this young girl named Micheala loves and how Red is her brother ,every time she turns around he's gone . He dosen't give her any warning and even though they live on the beach there are no foot steps to trace his footsteps.Micheala feels that the relationship that her and her brother had is maybe starting to drift away because he's dissappearing in and out of her life. Prehaps this last dissapperince is final and heart broken because Micheala thinks red is not coming back. This book I would have to rate would have to be an 5.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book I choose was Looking For Red by Angela Johnson. There are two major characters, Michaela and Red. Red died when Mike was twelve years old. The book mostly takes place on the Cape Cod ocean because Mike loved the ocean so much. Mike looked for Red every day in the ocean. Angela Johnson used imagry throughout the whole book. For example, you could see every wave in the ocean that went by. I enjoyed this book because it was sad and those are the kind of books I like.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Looking For Red is just that. A young girl growing up on the Cape looks for her brother after he doesn't come home one day. This book is interesting for adults and teens alike. It keeps you guessing until the very end. Angela Johnson writes in a way that is realistic. Her thoughts jump around on paper just as one's would in their head. This book would be best read for pleasure. Although this book is very well written there are uses of mildly foul language.