A thoughtful, observant survey of the new breed: the children of the communes and collectives of the counterculture, reared to survive outside the purview of ""experts,"" public schools and consumerism. Rothchild and Wolf, traveling with Chauncey and Bernsie, their own two achievement-oriented, attention-grabbing youngsters in tow, discover early on in their wanderings that ""all those stages that Dr. Spook calls natural are not natural at all."" Parents impose them. Beyond that, the offspring of the crash pads and experimental communities range from the illiterate, tormented children of Maya House--who strongly resemble the ""naked acid-crazed Easy Rider kids"" of popular nightmare--to the beautifully behaved, self-reliant children of the rural communes of New Mexico. Children like Andy Peyote, on his own at twelve, secure and free to live where and with whom he chooses, confident of his ability to survive on his own skills, wit and ingenuity. The authors on the whole find the urban communes tainted with middle-class professionalism and encumbered with the cultural baggage of suburbia. In rural settings, the youngsters tend to be disciplined, hard-working and inculcated with ""a kind of emotional goodness"" which is valued beyond intellectual or career achievement. Not that Rothchild and Wolf don't have some qualms: the commune children have physical but not emotional freedom; outside ""the pack"" their identity is shaky. No facile conclusions here, ""there's a price to be paid on both sides"" of the great divide. The best of the communard children are wise and charming; the worst of them are antisocial monsters.