Sunday, January 22, 2006


Creech, Sharon. 2005. REPLAY. New York: Joanna Cotler Books. ISBN 0060540206 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-8]

After crying at a crowded gathering of relatives because he was “just a little sardine, squashed in a tin,” Leo earns his nickname. When his family isn’t calling him Sardine, they call him Fog Boy because of his tendency to daydream. In his imagination Leo becomes a hero, a knight on a quest, or a movie star; in reality he remains the second of four children--called a herd of goats by their mother--who gets stuck with less than glamorous chores like cleaning the bathroom. Two events begin to change things for Leo: he discovers a mysterious box in the attic full of surprising clues to his father’s boyhood; and he gets cast in a school play.

Creech’s unusual novel begins like a playbill: “Joanna Cotler Books presents Replay. . . starring Leonardo.” Presented in 39 short scenes, the book introduces readers to Leo’s chaotic extended family and to his worries. The chapter called “Papa” reveals that Leo worries about his father who is different after having a heart attack. In a later chapter called “Many Papas,” Leo doubts that the father he knows ever tap-danced or wrote his own Autobiography, Age of Thirteen: “For Leo, reading Papa’s book is like reading a story about someone else.” The autobiography, read in secret, provides Leo a window into his father’s adolescence—an experience, which seems to normalize his own teen-aged struggles. At the same time, Leo’s successful performance in the school play sparks enthusiastic pride and new respect from his entire family. Leo learns, in this freshly original coming of age story, to appreciate his own unique version of family.

Readers can write their own autobiographies. Like Leo’s father, they may want to include photographs and a list of goals for the future.

Personal narratives about large families:
Barofsky, Seymour. IN GRANDPA’S HOUSE. ISBN 0060287888
Fletcher, Ralph. FIG PUDDING. ISBN 0395711258
Martin, Ann M. TEN KIDS NO PETS. ISBN 0823406911

By Suzy Parchman

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