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Seeing Red

Seeing Red

4.5 4
by Kathryn Erskine

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National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine delivers a powerful story of family, friendship, and race relations in the South.

Life will never be the same for Red Porter. He's a kid growing up around black car grease, white fence paint, and the backward attitudes of the folks who live in his hometown, Rocky Gap, Virginia.

Red's daddy, his idol, has just died,


National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine delivers a powerful story of family, friendship, and race relations in the South.

Life will never be the same for Red Porter. He's a kid growing up around black car grease, white fence paint, and the backward attitudes of the folks who live in his hometown, Rocky Gap, Virginia.

Red's daddy, his idol, has just died, leaving Red and Mama with some hard decisions and a whole lot of doubt. Should they sell the Porter family business, a gas station, repair shop, and convenience store rolled into one, where the slogan -- "Porter's: We Fix it Right!" -- has been shouting the family's pride for as long as anyone can remember?

With Daddy gone, everything's different. Through his friendship with Thomas, Beau, and Miss Georgia, Red starts to see there's a lot more than car motors and rusty fenders that need fixing in his world.

When Red discovers the injustices that have been happening in Rocky Gap since before he was born, he's faced with unsettling questions about his family's legacy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the aftermath of the civil rights movement, bigotry still permeates 1972 Stony Gap, Va., the hometown of 12-year-old Frederick “Red” Porter. Red’s father was a fair man up until the day he died, and now it’s Red’s duty to carry on his legacy. There are many wrongs Red would like to make right, like the way a neighbor, Mr. Dunlop, abuses his children. Red would also like to help an elderly African-American neighbor, Miss Georgia, whose family was cheated out of land a century ago. When Red’s mother decides they should move to Ohio, Red fears he won’t have time to correct these injustices the way his father would have wanted. Although the narrative makes heavy use of early 1970s pop culture references (especially TV shows) to build its setting, National Book Award winner Erskine (Mockingbird) offers powerful images of discrimination practiced in the South. She frankly explores the difficulty in fighting a corrupt system, but also stresses the difference one individual—even a child—can make, providing hope that justice can prevail. Ages 10–14. Agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick & Pratt. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine, who took on Asperger's Syndrome and school shootings in her beautiful novel Mockingbird, here turns her attention to racism and child abuse. Twelve-year-old Red Porter has just lost his idolized father to a fatal attack. As his mother prepares to sell the family house and auto repair shop in rural Virginia to move closer to relatives in Ohio, Red is determined to do whatever it takes to stop her, even vandalizing the shop to render it unsellable and teaming with "The Brotherhood" who have been known to burn crosses on the lawn of black neighbors. It is 1972, and so much in Red's world is changing: the Civil Rights movement challenges entrenched racism, his widowed mother begins to discover "women's lib," and a charismatic teacher rouses the preacher's ire by teaching her students to think for themselves. Red grapples not only with his father's death, but with estrangement from his African-American best friend, as well as the weight of racist history in which his own family is implicated in dark and disturbing ways. At 346 pages, Seeing Red is overly long as well as overly earnest, hammering home its points about the evils of racism and family violence over and over again. However, readers who stay with the story will be rewarded by an ending that delivers a storytelling wallop and a powerful message of redemption for those who are willing to ask themselves the hard question, "What kind of history you goin' to make?" Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
VOYA - Sharon Blumberg
Red is a twelve-year-old boy who must deal with the recent death of his father while also running the car shop his father left behind. Red has to confront the social pressures so prevalent in the small, southern town of Stony Gap, Virginia; Red must deal with his inner moral conflicts while taking on prejudiced views regarding race relations. This is the 1970s South, where these events are as common as winter snow in the northern parts of the United States. Red befriends a group of kids in his town, including an African-American young adult. But this could cause problems for him. Will he be able to choose what moral conviction is more important? Will he stick to his true friends or will he give in to pressure and go along with a group of youths known as the "Brotherhood," because it is the "easy" thing to do? The author of this prospective classic novel is also the author of the timeless Mockingbird (Penguin, 2010/Voya June 2010). The tantalizing situations in which Red finds himself with his so-called "friends" will keep readers turning the pages of this quick read. This historical fiction novel is appropriate for all age readers. Reviewer: Sharon Blumberg
Kirkus Reviews
Big changes are coming to small-town Virginia in 1972. Inheriting not just his great-great-grandfather's name, but his hair color too, 12-year-old Frederick Stewart Porter, aka Red, is grieving his father's recent death. His mother wants to sell the family auto shop and generations-old Porter land to move closer to her relatives in Ohio. Red's plan to thwart the sale becomes waylaid, however, by prejudice and family secrets. In his reflective, first-person narration tinged by references to pop culture of the time, he unknowingly joins a Klan-like group, which alienates him from his black, once–best friend, Thomas. As Red connects with Thomas' great-grandmother Miss Georgia, he vows to find the land that once held a historic African-American church. His search inadvertently uncovers a mysterious map from the past, his family's involvement in the church's demise and even his namesake's role in a murder. It also raises Red's awareness of racial inequality and the meanings of legacy and family. There's a lot going on, much of it clearly written to convey lessons. Add a teacher who encourages questioning authority, a bitter, generations-long dispute with violent neighbors, and a budding romance, and readers have a borderline didactic novel that raises too many issues with resolutions that are too quick. Still, there's no question the author's heart is in the right place. Erskine redeems many faults with a clear passion for racial justice and hope for change. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—In 1972, Red Porter, 12, is dealing with the recent death of his father. His mother wants to move the family from Stony Gap, Virginia, to Ohio-which would mean that Red and his brother, J, would have to leave everyone and everything they know, including friends, the family convenience and car-repair shops, and their home that is full of memories of their father. Red is also dealing with an estrangement from his African American friend, Thomas, who severs ties with him after someone tries to burn a cross on his grandparents' yard. Red tries many ways to stay in Virginia, from vandalism to getting rid of "For Sale" signs to skipping school to work in the shop and store. He's desperate enough to seek help from his neighbor Darrell's gang, but they won't aid him unless he's initiated into the group. They convince him to burn a cross and even try to get him to beat up Thomas, who they tie up and nearly lynch. Erskine tackles many issues in this novel: death and grieving, racism and race relations, women's rights, physical abuse, and religious and educational bias. By learning through his mistakes and the advice and actions of those around him, Red evolves from an angry, grieving boy to a well-adjusted, helpful big brother who can handle a shameful family legacy.—Adrienne L. Strock, Chicago Public Library

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Kathryn Erskine is the acclaimed author of many distinguished novels for young readers, including MOCKINGBIRD, winner of the National Book Award; THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE, an Amazon Best Book and ALA Notable Book; and QUAKING, an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and SEEING RED, which Booklist hailed as "powerful" in a starred review. Kathryn lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband and two children.

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Seeing Red 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the sample and i cant wait to get the whole book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the book!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MI_Reader More than 1 year ago
Seeing Red is historical fiction, taking place in 1972 Virginia, and definitely for older middle grade readers, as Erskine doesn't sugar-coat the history of the time period. Why Kids Will Love It - Any middle grader who loves historical fiction will love this book. It goes into much detail and really makes the reader feel they are in the early 1970's, and girl or boy, it doesn't matter. The book is pretty fast paced and keeps the reader on their toes. Many characters seem a bit stereo-typical at first, but as their layers are revealed, they become more interesting and not always who they seem to be originally. What I learned as a writer - The attention to detail. Erskine obviously spent a tremendous amount of time on research for this book, although after reading the back matter, she revealed that many of the characters are based on real life people and events, as well. Erskine also shows a delicacy to her writing when describing difficult, hard-to-read situations. It is tough to imagine that people in our history could act they way that they did, and I'm sure, very hard for many middle graders of today to understand. Erskine's writing helps tone down the emotion without taking anything away from it.