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Book Review–Replay by Sharon Creech

ReplayThis thoughful little book by the author of Walk Two Moons is a masterfully crafted peek into the life and heart of a large, Italian family.  The narrator of the story, Leo, is a a twelve-year-old who feels overshadowed by his musically and athletically gifted siblings.  His only real interest is acting, but to his great disappointment, he is only assigned a small roll in the much-anticipated school play.  Known as Fog Boy (because of his tendency to get lost in thought and ignore the world around him), he spends most of his time on the roof of his family’s garage, imagining alternate endings to stories in which he plays the hero.  The novel itself is written in short chapters which alternate between reality and Leo’s own imagined scenes.  The aspect of Leo’s life that is the most confusing to him is his relationship with his father.  Leo discovers a journal his father kept when he was thirteen years old, and therein Leo meets a person he cannot recognize as his own father.  Leo’s father’s journal hints at an aunt whom Leo has never met, and thus Leo’s search for the truth precipitates what we hope will become an alternate ending to his family’s story. 

I read children’s literature now as a parent, and this colors my reaction to the stories, especially when the stories are about parent-child relationships, as this one is.   According to his journal, Leo’s father had big dreams as a child:  he wanted to be a singer, dancer, writer, and athlete.  Leo wonders if he ever wanted to be a father because to Leo, it seems that his father is burdened by life, rather than enjoying it, as he did as a child:

This is all news to Leo.  There are no check marks next to any of these.  Leo notices that “to be a father” or “to be an accountant” is not on Papa’s list.     This bothers Leo, and so, there on the garage, he improvises a different life for his father.

A few pages later, we have the summation of Leo’s feelings as he makes his own list:

He tries a “Life” list, and suddenly he is full of high ideals:

1.  To save the sick and starving children.

2. To stop war.

3. To save the environment.

Leo stops.  He thinks of all the amazing things a person could try to do, but they seem too big, all those things, and so he scratches them out and writes:

1.  To be a father.

And again he feels uneasy, because he isn’t sure he means it.  To be a father seems unimaginable, and at the same time, it does not look as important as the other things he listed, and he is ashamed because he knows it should be extremely important.

This one short scene says so much about parenthood, doesn’t it?  In this novel, Creech has written a beautiful, poignant story about life and family relationships.  As an adult, I appreciate how she distills the importance of family down into this gem of a short children’s novel.

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