Heynen (for adults, The One-Room Schoolhouse, 1993, etc.) chronicles the growth and friendship of two appealing youngsters in rural Iowa--and a sweet, simple farm life it's not. Neighbors Henry and Gretchen are drawn to each other when they meet at the local lake, for they have plenty in common: They are the youngest in their households, constantly admonished by their elders and tortured by their siblings. It sounds harsh, yet Heynen portrays even the most heartbreaking situations deftly. Henry and Gretchen find comfort in each other and in secret trips to visit with an elderly couple whose eccentricities border on--but never cross into--the horrifying. The writing is funny, with a folksy dialogue through which the voices of the characters emerge, and it's all slightly off-kilter, with the skewed realism of The Beans of Egypt, Maine, but for a younger audience: The elderly folk have one set of false teeth and take turns eating; Henry and Gretchen tend to a six-legged lamb, and try their best to make her ""normal."" A perceptive novel about companionship that both pinches the funnybone and plucks a few heartstrings without missing a beat.