Review of The Boy Who Would be Famous
by Jane Durrell
reprinted with permission of the Erickson Tribune (EricksonTribune.com)
Books these days are written for specific markets, but The Boy Who Would Be Famous doesn’t fit a pigeonhole. Its clear prose certainly can be read by the age group written about, but I think the best audience may be grandparents.
Author Rick Sowash’s memories of his years from five to ten (195501960), when he set out to be famous, incorporate important interactions with both sets of grandparents and inadvertently let us know how we might be remembered by those small people who are so important in our lives. Our memories might even merge with some of young Rick’s dreams and confusions. Is he the first child to have gone to school expecting to learn to read the first day?
Rick own parents are wholly admirable; the story isn’t about what’s lacking at home being fulfilled elsewhere. But the grandparents have things to contribute, by the benefit of their years, that can only come from them. “I stayed overnight at both grandparents’ houses many, many times,” he writes.
The climb to greatness
The grandfather known as “Dudu” is an unending source of information and encouragement. It is the discovery that Dudu, who invented the glass oven door but is not mentioned in the World Book Encyclopedia, that makes Rick determined to become famous. He sets out to accomplish things impossible for the World Book to overlook. These attempts are ingenious but seldom workable; even he knows he’ll not make fame by roller skating to his paternal grandparents’ home, although it’s farther than he’s ever roller skated before. In the course of pursuing fame, he decides to give a speech, but despite flyers in all the neighbor’s mailboxes, only his mother attends. It’s alright, however; he’s done it. He’s made a speech. He’s one more rung toward greatness.
Grandfather Dudu is the constant presence who tells this book-loving boy, “The cover of a book is like the lid. Lift open the cover and good things float up from the pages, right into your head.” Grown-ups generally are kind, although he doesn’t always find them understanding. His mother orders him down from the garage roof without ever determining that he had no intention o jumping. He had gotten there by climbing the television attenna, a feat that left this reader as breathless as the boy doing the climbing.
In the end, he has learned that “there are many ways of being great ... and many kinds of great people” and that being mentioned in the World Book Encyclopedia is only one measure. The reader may already know that, but traveling with young Rick on his voyage of discovery makes these sentiments new again.