An artistic achievement and at the same time a compassionate probing beneath the surface of social inequalities to underlying unities. That the characters at the upper level are stock figures -- and the solution a bit contrived matters not a whit when compared with the understanding and realistic handling of the central figure, Lovejoy, shabby waif of Catford Street where not a blade of grass nor a tree could grow. There are, also, the two boys,- Tip Malone, leader of the gang, and Sparkey, the frail little boy of the widowed newspaper woman, who worshipped Tip and longed to ""belong"". The unique conception of Lovejoy stands out, however, for she is a bundle of contradictions, she lives by her wits, steals, lies, cadges possessions often just for the devil of it- as when she snatched the packet of seeds from little Sparkey -- the deed that started the whole affair. For Lovejoy found in beauty an answer for her starved heart. Her mother was an itinerant, third rate player, indifferent to the child she parked with the restaurant people, Vincent, who dreamed of being a great chef, and his down-to-earth wife. Lovejoy had outgrown and outworn her clothes, but she knew the fine points of taste and style instinctively (one of the most revealing incidents is when she sells the new outfit and buys- at second hand- the things she feels she ought to wear). But it is the making of the secret garden in the inner courtyard of the Roman Catholic Church that provides the central theme- that brings the three children into focus, that shows up the paper thin pretenses of the adults, that gives poor Miss Olivia a belated significance to a starved life. There is humor here- and understanding. A story that might easily have become maudlin sentimentality remains at a high level of compassion. Rumer Godden's readers will love it- and her market will spread out through the Book of the Month and Readers' Digest Book Club selections.