It is a pleasure to find that James Reaney's first book for children, first published by Macmillan of Canada in 1965, has just been re-issued in a handsome paperback edition, complete with the original illustrations by Leo Rampen. "The Boy with an R in His Hand" tells the story of two orphan brothers who arrive in York from the Red River Settlement in 1826 and quickly become involved with the complex politics of Upper Canada. Joel, the elder brother, aligns himself with the Family Compact and his overbearing, stuffy uncle, while Alex, more imaginative and courageous, becomes an apprentice to William Lyon Mackenzie at the Colonial Advocate. There he (and the reader) learn in some detail about Mackenzie's press and the art of type-setting. Alex, rather improbably, 'had it set up right, and from that moment on his progress in the skill of type-setting was...like a house on fire'. 'This is a satisfying, fast-moving story, full of incident and detail about colonial life.
It climaxes with the wrecking of Mackenzie's printshop and press by a band of young Tories acting with the implicit approval of the government, at the end of which Alex finds a single capital R, his souvenir of life as a printer's apprentice. Recommended for ages nine and up, as a piece of Canadiana which enlivens history for the young reader' - Marilyn Rueter, "The Devil's Artisan".
Publisher: Porcupine's Quill Inc.,Canada