What happens when the eccentric's freedom to be odd impinges on the health or safety of the community? That is the focal issue of this story which is too relentessly centered on a given situation to be great fiction but certainly makes for the sort of story-into-discussion book which deserves recognition and attention, especially at this age level. The freedom to be different gets endless trite and simplistic treatment in juvenile novels, but seldom are the necessarily vague boundaries of this freedom as realistically presented as they are here. Briefly, the story revolves around Jim's efforts to break through to an understanding of Mrs. Ames in relation to society. She dressed weirdly, spoke seldom and kept 27 cats. The cats dug up neighborhood gardens, preyed on birds and made the nights hideous with their yowling. Finally, one of them was blamed for tripping an older woman. Jim had established communications with Mrs. Ames through a succession of stray incidents (cats and backyard encounters). He liked her for her lack of adult condescension which developed into a protective fondness for her gentle madnesses and her monomania about cats. The neighborhood petition circulated to force Mrs. Ames to reduce her cat population raised a number of ethical questions for Jim, especially after his father signed the petition. Was Mrs. Ames' kindness to cats dangerous to people? Were the neighbors being petty or seeking relief from real annoyance? While Mrs. Ames unquestionably gave the cats her love, did she really feed, house and clean them thoroughly? Is the disposal of an excess of kittens humane or heartless? These are a series of questions arising from a situation children can recognize. No answers, but choices are presented. Stimulating.