In her fourth book about the Blossoms, Byars gives us the best sort of sequel: an independent story that tells what happened next to favorite characters. With breathtaking suspense, she puts each in mortal danger; with her ususal panache, she extricates them and sets them on their way, stronger and wiser. Like the others in the quartet, this follows several threads in alternating chapters: Junior, waiting for Pap to take him to see Mad Mary, is distraught when his dog, Dump, is bitten by a deadly snake; Pap is walking by wildly flooding Snake Creek, reminiscing about his former profession, rope-throwing; Vern and friend are building a raft; Maggie is performing for the first time at the rodeo with Vicki, her widowed mother, who has just fallen in love with another daredevil. Vern's raft is swept away by the creek; Pap's thrown rope saves the boys, but the effort precipitates a heart attack. Byars not only straightens all this out, swiftly, pungently, and without missing a step, but her narrative is so full of twists and insights that not only the Blossoms but the reader emerges entertained and enriched at book's end. With its deeper, darker undercurrent of impending real changes as the Blossoms grow older, this is the series' "concluding" volume; but it would be easy to forgive Byars for breaking that promise.