In spite of the authors' last minute rush for a sunny close, this cheerfully hortatory tale about a day's whale-sighting excursion off California by a class of neurologically handicapped children makes its points with humor and warmth. Miss Fish, teacher of the ""special"" children, knows just how much the trip means to them. And Dee-Dee (apraxia and hyperkinesia), from a comfortable home, and John (dyslexia and impaired hearing--the title is John's poster caption), whose welfare mother is usually in an alcoholic haze, are terrified the trip will not come off. But Dee-Dee's parents finally consent and John's mother hugs him with a tearful, ""I never seen a whale. I'm glad you're gonna."" But another sixth grade is aboard the small boat too and soon there's the inevitable, dreaded yell of ""Re-Tard!""--lunches are tossed overboard, and a battle ends only when they hit open water and both groups are felled by ""urping."" An informational seminar by Miss Fish for the other class about ""special-ness,"" a rescue, a magnificent unexpected view of whales and friendly follow-up phone calls make the day's gain in confidence for Dee-Dee and John as grand as the sight of the pod, ""made up of living creatures which understand one another. . . (which would) guide and protect and care for one another."" The Swarthouts manage to incorporate the tensions typical of the varied disabilities and a common sense of alienation into the special personalities of John and Dee-Dee. Even with the continuing subcutaneous preachments, it's an entertaining outing.