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by Sharon Creech
Order:  USA  Can
Joanna Cotler, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Did you ever dream of starring in heroic real-life episodes? Then you'll empathize with Leonardo, a dreamer called sardine by his family and fog boy by some teachers (though his drama teacher did say 'it was not a bad thing to be a dreamer.') Leo replays scenarios in his head constantly (and shares them with readers), though reality always intrudes.

Leo is the introspective middle child in a lively Italian family. He feels, 'I was always in the middle or on the edge. Watching.' One day he finds a journal his father Giorgio wrote as a tap-dancing thirteen-year-old. Papa, who had a heart attack a few years ago, does not seem as happy now as he did then and Leo wonders about it. In the journal, Papa mentions his youngest sister Rosaria, but Leo doesn't have an aunt Rosaria. When he asks about her at a family dinner, everyone is upset with him. Leo tries out for the school play, 'Rumpopo's Porch' (a script is included in the back of the book), and wins the small part of 'an old crone'. He's not thrilled but fortunately has the support of his best friend Ruby (who plays the donkey). Ruby often 'will rattle his brains' with insightful comments.

Sharon Creech pulls all this together, with amazing empathy, into a heartwarming family drama that explores how people change over time, how family sorrows benefit from airing, and the incredible power (and occasional pain) of a youthful imagination.

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