The best of all possible worlds. . . Sister Bay, Wisconsin just before the outbreak of World War II, where Robbie and his buddies--Libby who had polio, the Chippewa orphan Jim and ""spastic"" Charlie--dream of an even better life they'll build on a communal homestead they plan to call Loon Lodge. But first Charlie (he's the only one old enough to apply for homestead land) must be cleared of charges that he burned down the tannery, and that means finding the will left by the town's recently suicided great (and often drunk) lady to expose the scheming, disinherited Herr Doktor. The plot unfolds in snatches of dialogue, homey colloquies from the bachelor Swede who takes an interest in their future, and much glorying in the season of youth, the rightness of small town life and the rhythms of nature in general. Often this goes too far, as with Libby rhapsodizing over her own efflorescence and glorying in the day when she finally ""blooms"" (though she decides at the last minute not to share all this with Robbie until after marriage). But the misty lakeside setting, the characters' isolation from news of the impending war, and Robbie's own innocence of the dark, small town secrets that threaten his dream all dovetail with the Ecclesiastes-like philosophy. And Ferry's narration--not innovative surely, but somewhat more sophisticated than the single viewpoint, 1-2-3 chronology juvenile authors so often rely on--makes a pleasant change of pace. You want to believe in Loon Lodge and in these north country gothic characters, and you can if you want to believe long enough to see Robbie through a mystery that threatens to shatter his faith.