Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford
Genre: World War II Fiction
Publication Date: 1968
Recommended Age Group: 16 years and older boys and some girls
Summary: In this classic coming-of-age novel Josh Arnold learns about love, loss, and responsibility when his Dad goes off to fight in WWII and leaves him with his Mother in New Mexico. The story starts in Mobile, AL where Josh’s Dad Francis Arnold runs a Navy shipyard. Francis feels the need to go fight and moves the family to their summer home in the mountain city of Sagrado, New Mexico where they will be safe. While in Sagrado Josh finds himself in a different society than his is used to and he struggles to learn their way of life. He makes friends and enemies quickly. He gets chased by Chango holding a knife and The Cloyd sisters holding up their skirts all in the same week. Josh also learns to deal with his mother’s racism and his mother’s depression because of his father’s long absence.
In the end Josh and his Mother have both learned some important lessons about the strength they each posses. Josh becomes an anchor for his mother and friends. After a mine killed his father he joined the Navy to follow in his footsteps and to do his duty. Mrs. Arnold learned that hired help can be more than that and came to treat them as friends rather than servants. She also learned how to stand on her own feet and that she doesn’t have to be in Mobile to be surrounded by good people and have a good time.
Personal Notes: As I mentioned in the summary Mrs. Arnold had some racial problems throughout the book and some people have cited these as a reason not to read it. I think it puts it into perspective a little and makes her change more drastic at the end. She does have some low points and some of her comments made me uncomfortable but it reminded me of talking to my grandmother who at times said things that are no longer politically correct but were not frowned upon when she was younger.
I think this book would be best for boys because it is written from a boy’s point of view and is more geared toward them. I certainly enjoyed it but not in the same way that I like reading a Meg Cabot novel. It’s a different kind of read. However, it is a very well-written and engaging book.