"Not Just ANY Green Englishman" is written by Glenn Skeldon, who happens to be the father of a dear friend of mine. I was curious to see how his book turned out and I started the book thinking I was being kind. Instead, my interest was peaked on the first page! I got to know Fred and the other characters who color this book and I was pleasantly entertained, page after page.
I first met the author when I visited my friend's family home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, on a break from college in the Fall of 1998. I remember Amanda showing me the house and peaking in a crowded office and she told me that it was where her dad worked on his book, a biography of his grandfather. My own self-involvement kept me from asking anything about this herculean project. I wish I got his first-hand accounts then, it would have made the story even richer.
My disinterest as an 18 year old has changed over the years. Living a convenient life with modern technology makes me marvel at those who settled North America and raised families with huge hardships. I deeply admire the folks who came before us and tamed the wild unknowns with just a dream and prayer. Although I am not Canadian, my great grandmother's family homesteaded in Saskatchewan. She left when she was a child, but had not-too-fond memories of that difficult time. When I told her I was going to college in Saskatchewan, she said, "Why would you DO that?"
My family history made me fascinated with the stories in "Not Just ANY Green Englishman." How did Fred end up in the middle of the Canadian Prairies? How does someone who knows nothing about farming begin a homestead in such a challenging place? How do you raise 14 kids during the Great Depressions? I was intrigued thanks to Glenn's witty writing style. Glenn has a way of telling about calamity in a humorous way that makes one feel amused and also identify with the character. This book is rich with stories and description that had me laughing out loud at times and in tears at other times.
Story after funny story reminded me of episodes in a wholesome show like Leave it to Beaver... only much colder. My favorites were when young Fred got caught skinny dipping by the neighborhood policeman; or when Fred and his brother hunkered down in their root cellar to get out of the blizzard creeping in to their little shack only to be frightened by an unknown, beady-eyed rodent; or when Fred's nightdress froze to the wall of his bedroom in the night; or a chimney obstruction cleared by a hand grenade. Glenn brought the stories to life and I enjoyed seeing a glimpse of the life my great grandmother undoubtably remembered from her childhood in the Prairies.
I know from my contact with the family that "Not Just ANY Green Englishman" started as a labor of love. Even back in 1998, Glenn was steadfastly working on this book. Collecting stories, writing them out, and then combining them into a 400+ page book isn't an easy process. Honestly, even if the book was a disaster, it would be an effort worth admiring. I am not writing this review as a favor or out of obligation. On the contrary, Glenn's first book is a superb read. One would assume the author has written many books as his vocation. He is a very talented writer, who kept me intrigued until the end (the short description of the family members at the end and all the pictures are so interesting!).
The second book Glenn alludes to in the author's description is perhaps made in jest ("Adventures Of The Ex-Lax Kid—And Other Moving Stories"), but I sincerely hope he continues to write! Consider reading "Not Just ANY Green Englishman", I loved every word and you will too.
"Not Just ANY Green Englishman" can be purchased at McNallyRobinson.com. Or you can get in line to borrow my copy. :)