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<strong>'The Curtain Went Up, My Pants Fell Down' </strong></p>

In the latest installment of the best-selling teen series, Hank Zipzer learns all the world is a stage.
/ Source: TODAY

Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver and Jesse Joshua Watson bring you yet another Hank Zipzer adventure. This time, the world's greatest underachiever is failing math at the very same time he's cast as the King in his school's production of "The King and I." Hank has been given an ultimatum by his dad: improve your grades...or give up the crown. Can Hank hit the books and perform as well? Will he learn why the show must go on? Here's an excerpt from the book:

Chapter 23
When we got to school the next morning, Frankie, Ashley, and I went directly to the multipurpose room. McKelty had already been named the king, and I wasn’t sure whether Devore would let me back into the play.

When we walked in, Nick McKelty was standing on the stage, wearing my costume. Devore was supervising Mrs. Crock, who was kneeling in front of McKelty, putting pins in the golden pantaloons. Oh, no, it looked like they had already added more fabric to make the pants stretch around McKelty’s tree-trunklike waist. My heart started to sink. I was too late.

I raced over to Devore.

“My father said yes,” I blurted out.

Devore looked at Mrs. Crock, who was kneeling down with a mouthful of pins, working on letting out the pantaloons. She had turned McKelty around, so his big bubble butt was staring us right in the face. Wow, it took a lot to cover up that big, round thing. I didn’t know there was that much gold fabric in all of New York.

“I thought your father forbid you,” Devore said to me.

“It’s a long story,” I said. “But he finally said yes.”

Devore was quiet, not jumping up and down with joy like I had hoped he would.

“But the costume . . .” Devore said, his voice trailing off. “And yesterday, we changed some of the staging.”

Mrs. Crock turned McKelty another quarter turn, so he was now facing us. Poor lady had run out of pins.

“Hey, Zipperbutt, check me out,” McKelty said. “Now you can finally see what a king is supposed to look like. I was born to wear gold.”

Devore looked at him.

“Lots of important producers have already called, asking me to leave school and star in their Broadway plays,” Nick went on, giving Devore a blast of the McKelty factor at work. “But I’m going to leave them all dangling for a while. Give Hollywood a chance to call—then weigh my offers.”

“That does it,” Devore said, like he had just awakened from a horrible dream. “Mr. McKelty, thank you so much for filling in during Hank’s absence, but as in the real theater, the understudy must step aside when the original star is able to return.”

“Huh?” McKelty said.

“You’re fired, dude,” Frankie said.

“You can’t fire me,” McKelty said.

“Might I remind you that I am the director,” Devore said. “I must do what’s right for the play.”

“So hand over the costume, McKelty,” Ashley said. “It’s going to go on Hank’s royal body now.”

“About that,” Mrs. Crock said to Devore. “The costume has already been altered significantly to make it fit Nick.”

“Don’t worry about that, Mrs. Crock,” I said. “I’ll use a belt to hold up the pants.”

“But the King of Siam wouldn’t have worn a belt,” Devore said.

“How about this?” Ashley said, pointing to a golden cord with two tassels that was draped over the back of the throne. And without waiting for an answer, she pulled the cord off the throne and brought it to Devore. “We can use it to hold up the pants.”

“Now that, my dear, is thinking like a true theater person,” Devore said.

“So what happens to me?” McKelty said. “I’m just supposed to fade into the background like this never happened?”

“There’s a plan.” Frankie laughed.

Devore ignored his remark and rubbed his goatee thoughtfully before he spoke. “As a gesture of our appreciation,” he began, “for your . . . um . . .”

“Talent?” Nick filled in.

“Let’s just say, for your unique understudy skills,” Devore said, “it would be a pleasure to ask you to join Luke Whitman and play Elephant Boy Number Two.”

“Is it a speaking part?” McKelty asked.

“No, but your presence on the stage will speak volumes,” Devore said.

“He’ll take it,” Frankie answered for McKelty.

“But aren’t I still the understudy?” McKelty asked.

“Indeed you are,” Devore told him.

“Because something awful could still happen to Zipperbutt, right?” McKelty said. “I mean, you never know what could happen. The theater is a strange place.”

Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t like the sound of that.

Excerpted from “The Curtain Went Up, My Pants Fell Down” by Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver and Jesse Joshua Watson. Copyright © 2007 Conn Henry Winkler, Lin Oliver and Jesse Joshua Watson. All rights reserved. Published by Penguin Group. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.