A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there is little objectionable here, and much of real value -- it's a book that can cause children to look at those around them with new vision and empathy.
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What's the story?
Called "Fog Boy" by his family for his habit of spacing out while daydreaming, Leo is not thrilled to get the role of the Crone in his class production of "Rumpopo's Porch." But an odd direction from his teacher -- "Try to imagine what [the characters] were like when they were young." -- gets him thinking about everyone around him. At around the same time he finds a journal his father kept when he was thirteen.
And so Leo thinks, and wonders, and dreams ... about the way his father used to be happy, and how his young self seems almost unrecognizable next to the man today. About his friend Ruby, who once had a younger brother. About the mysterious Rosario, whom no one will discuss. About how he himself will someday be different from the boy he is today. And in doing so Leo the Fog Boy begins to wake up to the world, and to gain a new and deeper understanding of those around him. Also includes the complete script for the play, "Rumpopo's Porch."
Is it any good?
It seems as though author Sharon Creech wasn't quite sure which direction she wanted to go, and this is reflected in the book's style -- sometimes it's written like a play, and sometimes it isn't. It's really two books. One is a delightful, lovely, wise, poignant story of growing up that can help children to a deeper understanding of themselves and those around them. It contains a view of adults that children rarely think of for themselves, and that is just as rarely portrayed in children's books: people in the process of growing and changing, just like children, who weren't always the way they are now, and who have reasons and experiences behind who they have become. It's all about the backstory.
The other is a fairly lame attempt at comedy. One day his brother is injured in football, the next day his sister is injured in soccer, the next day his little brother is injured in ... a choir performance. Ha, ha. None of this seems to have any point. Leo is supposed to be 12, but you would never guess it from his behavior: His foggy innocence makes him seem half that, and his developmental discoveries seem more appropriate to a 9-year-old. But fortunately these sections of the book don't last long, and then it's back to the good stuff, which is very good indeed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the book's overall theme and the way the author develops the story. How is the overall theme -- examining the ways in which people become who they are -- carried throughout the story as well as the play in which the characters perform?
How do the characters learn to think about the backstory?