The kind sheriff of Possum Trot (Saving Sweetness, 1998, not reviewed) has taken a small platoon of orphans under his inept wing to get them away from the evil hands of Mrs. Sump, the orphanage director who ""was meaner than a skilletful of rattlesnakes."" The sheriff has a big heart but is woefully short of skills when it comes to cooking and housework (he washes the windows with butter, for instance); he can't read, which makes it hard for him to decipher the letter he has been sent. Sweetness, one of his charges, takes it upon herself to learn to read (through a window she secretly audits classes), and her answer to the letter's query brings to her family its culinary salvation, and knits up the sheriff's broken heart as well. Stanley paints the sheriff as an utter goofball--as does Karas, to fine effect in mixed-media paintings--but deeply smitten by his adopted brood and always willing to try something new to make their lives better. Bonehead or not, the sheriff is an agent for compassion and sharing, rare qualities not to be trifled with.