An increasingly familiar situation is given a breezy, reassuring twist in this lighthearted yet realistic story. Fourth-grader Jerry takes pride in his latchkey, which, like his friends, he wears around his neck as a symbol of independence. Thus he's very annoyed when his after-school activities are interrupted by phone calls from Sharita, a lonely younger latchkey child who has randomly dialed his number, hoping to find an understanding ear. Despite himself, Jerry becomes so involved with Sharita that when she suddenly decides to leave her own neighborhood to find him he escorts her home--though, in consequence, he gets a soap-opera-loving retiree as babysitter for a week. An abandoned cat, also in need of attention, turns out to be the solution to Sharita's problem. Although the language here is more utilitarian than evocative, Seabrooke is warmly optimistic, presenting the children's situation as an opportunity for self-reliance. Characterization is believable; there are some amusing, offbeat moments. A stoW that should both entertain and encourage its readers.