CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 36. . . .May 17, 2013
Replay. (Sports Stories).
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer & Co., 2013.
124 pp., pbk., hc, & ebook, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $7.95 (ebook).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0381-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0382-6 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0383-3 (ebook).
Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.
Review by Sae Yong Kim.
“Warren, you will always have trouble convincing people you can play because of your size. So you need to have a fire in your belly. And if I just let you have a position, it wasn't going to light that fire. I wanted to see you fight for it. You did.”
The coach's words still echoed in his ears as Warren got on his bike. His bike flew over the railway tracks. He zipped down Main Street.
So why did he celebrate like that?”
“To fool the refs, I guess.”
“So he’s embarrassed now that everybody knows, right?”
…Warren laughed and shook his head. “It says that his coach praised him for tricking the officials and getting his team the win….”
“Warren, what kind of sport is this that you like?” asked his father. “What that player did is cheating. And everyone is acting like he did a great thing.”
“Did you see the news today?” Brad asked….
Warren nodded nervously. “Do you think he knew he was out of bounds?”
“Of course he knew,” said Brad. “But he did what any pro player would do. He sold the call. When the play is close like that, you convince the referee you’re right, even when you know you’re wrong.”
Replay is a part of the Lorimer “Sports Stories” series, which (from the blurb on the back of the book) focuses on providing fast-paced stories written in clear, easy language for reluctant readers. The main characters are mainly boys, but, that said, there is no emphasis on gender in Replay, and girls who play Canadian football, for instance, will have no problems identifying with the characters. While it is possible to read the book with no knowledge of football, there is a short glossary at the end which explains some of the football terms used frequently in the story. This glossary will make the reading easier and more enjoyable for readers unfamiliar with the sport.
Warren Chen, who has always been passionate about football, has finally reached the age at which he is allowed to play the sport himself (his exact age is not specified in the story, but after a brief Internet search for Bantam League rules, I believe this sets his age at either 12 or 14). His team, the Sexsmith Shamrocks, hasn’t won any important games for a long time. Warren is small for his age and the youngest player on his team, but he makes up for his size by being fast and agile, and working hard. Eventually, he wins the approval of his coach and teammates. At the same time, Warren needs to keep up his grades and help out at his parents’ restaurant, the Jade Garden. Warren doesn’t mind assisting his parents because every Wednesday evening Bridget, the prettiest girl in school, comes for dinner with her parents.
At an important game with the Grande Prairie Raiders, Warren does something which he has often seen professional football players do: he “sells” a touchdown call by celebrating on the field, when he knows without a doubt that he did not make the goal line. The Shamrocks win the game because of this touchdown, and afterwards, Warren is celebrated throughout the town as a hero. While debating with himself the morality of his actions, he is told by Bridget that she has pictures of him being tackled – a clear half-yard away from the goal line.
While the language is clear and simple, and the page count of 124 means that the story is stripped of all but the absolutely necessary parts, the characters that readers encounter in Replay are refreshingly individual, and the story proceeds in a natural manner, despite the quick pace. The overall effect is of a lively charcoal sketch, as opposed to a rich oil painting – the content in this short book could, just by adding more detail, easily become a much longer novel.
Instead of concentrating solely on Warren’s time on the field (during practice and games), the book shows the reader glimpses of many aspects of his life: his relationship with his parents and sister, his work in the family restaurant, and his attitude in class and towards homework, all of which help readers to identify with Warren and follow his actions from a closer distance. All sorts of possibilities for the appearance of stereotypes – second generation Chinese immigrant whose family owns a Chinese restaurant, expected to study hard and help in the restaurant, small for his age, good at math, youngest in the team, crush on the prettiest girl in school, etc. – are neatly avoided. In particular, I found Warren’s relationship with his father to be beautifully illustrated in that his father cares probably nothing for football, but he obviously cares very deeply for his son, a nice change from the stereotypical “sports father” who loves the game and expects his son to be a great athlete, or the overbearing father who dislikes the game and expects other things (academic prowess or more work in the family business, usually) from his son, portrayals that I have seen more often in fiction. Warren, in turn, respects, trusts and loves his father, and doesn’t mind having to explain the rules of football or the progress of a game to him.
Important themes in the book include teamwork, integrity, trying your best, responsibility, and (familial) love, which are all integrated into the story in such a way that the reader never feels preached at, or squirmy with embarrassment. I would have liked to see a little more discussion of the difference in consequences for amateur players and professional football players when they “sell” referee calls, but it would have made the book longer and is not essential to the plot, so I can see why it was left out.
Sae Yong Kim has completed requirements for a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature and, while waiting to graduate in May, is now studying at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia, BC.
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