If only Monica Dickens weren't so taken with her penniless, devil-may-care World's End family, we might find them more disarming. As it is, when Mother buys Quantity Cooking for Institutions to prepare for her assistant cook's job at school, but Michael ""left the book in the barn and Lucy the Nubian goat ate it, so Mother had to learn on the job"" -- we've had just one blithe example too many. And if the four Fielding children weren't such paragons of generosity -- devoting most of their energy and all their panhandled cash to rehabilitating a crippled, babyish (and rich) new nine year-old neighbor with therapeutic riding lessons -- their ultimate success might be more involving. Still, there is room for this where Dickens' Utopian houseful of children and animals found readers for the first two World's End books (the Fielding parents drop in and out here, but with such irresponsible spontaneity that no one's freedom is threatened). And when at last it is not Dad's book (a rejected manuscript about how he didn't manage to sail around the world) that saves the day financially, but the dog Charlie who becomes the accidental star of a dog food commercial, we'll all agree that the adventure's ending is a fitting one.