<B>Leo's casting call</B><BR><BR> Twelve-year-old Leo feels like a canned sardine at home with his big, noisy family, and his frequent lapses into a Walter Mitty-like fantasy world have earned him the nickname "fog boy." The school play is approaching, and Leo remembers three previous performances. He played a tree in one, and his bark fell off. He played an angel, and his wings fell off. When he delivered his line, "Is he hurt?" he said, "Is he glurt," to the never-ending amusement of his siblings. When Leo tries out for <I>Rumpopo's Porch</I>, written by his teacher, he expects the starring role but instead gets to play an old crone. <BR><BR> Readers soon realize that the school play isn't the only play being enacted here. Leo's whole life is a play, but so far, he has always felt that everyone else was on stage, and he was the audience. Now he's a player, learning the value of stories, whether they are Rumpopo's in the play or his father's stored away in the secret album Leo has found. Leo wonders about the journal entries and photographs his father kept during his early years. What about that list of goals, none of which his father has achieved? He never became a singer, dancer, writer or athlete, but instead, works as an accountant.<BR><BR> Sharon Creech handles big themes here life, death, family and the role of art in life but as always, she writes with a light touch and a genuine affection for her characters. The novel is laid out as a play, opening with a list of scenes and a cast of characters. Dialogue is at times written as a script, and the whole script of <I>Rumpopo's Porch</I> is included for teachers who might want to produce the play with their classes.<BR><BR> Leo comes to appreciate the many players in his life and how a man like his father might play many parts. Just as Rumpopo told stories that changed characters' lives, Papa gives Leo his <I>Autobiography, Age of Thirteen</I>, passing on his story, which has already changed Leo's view of the part he will play in the theater of his life. <BR><BR> <I>Dean Schneider is an English teacher in Nashville.</I>

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