Lydia (Lucky Charms & Birthday Wishes) is spending the summer with her aunts while her mother stays with Dad, in the hospital for treatments that make him bald (the only hint of the nature of his serious illness). Despite the somber undercurrent, Lydia's activities are normal vacation pursuits: day camp (refreshingly described as an unimaginative nonsuccess that she is allowed to drop), starting an afternoon program for preschoolers with her friends Emily and Ivy (a boisterous learning experience also given up ""before anyone [got] hurt!""); getting ready for a crafts fair. She also thinks a lot about fathers--the one in the dollhouse, good at rescuing his children; Johnny's who ""walked"" years ago; her own, lonely in the hospital. And she wonders about herself--""Emily's the brains, but Ivy's the wit,"" says Aunt May, and it takes Lydia time to realize that she too is special, both imaginative and creative. Like McDonnell's other books, this is a warm family story, with quiet humor and engaging characters. Like Haywood, she takes children's concerns seriously; as Cleary sometimes does, she sets them amid graver problems without overwhelming them. A fine book for middle readers.