He's--ugh--""nice and tall"" to his approving teachers, ""Four Eyes"" and all awkward to his bullying sixth-grade classmates, a draggy disappointment to his energetic coach-father, a joke to little sister Georgette and her friends--and, still, despite his strong interests in Indian relics and such: ""I don't want always to be doing my own thing."" Thus Mark Anthony Crowder, as well-met a misfit as you'll ordinarily find, especially after his dismal story swings into a first-person journal of the summer he unexpectedly discovers the joys of gardening. Dad forced him into it after he refused to go to sports camp, but Uncle Edward, a genuinely kind W. C. Fieldish sort, starts the project roiling and then, lifelike, the vegetables take over. Insinuated along with the odd pair's success is Mark Anthony's growing confidence, and capping it is Dad's sudden realization of what an unfeeling tyrant he's become. It can and does happen; or--as Uncle Edward reminds Mark Anthony--as you get older, ""it does get better."" In a modulated family setting (Ma tries to be protective), that may be just the solace some kids need.