Corcoran has maintained her competent storytelling style through more than 30 books for children and young adults. Typically, this one--set in a small town in Massachusetts during WW I--reads smoothly; but while she paints a vivid picture of the home front, neither plot nor characters are especially memorable. When Ernie, her favorite cousin, joins the navy, Lillian's patriotism is aroused; it soon becomes a vehicle for making friends. Nervous about returning to school after a year's illness with rheumatic fever, she makes a disastrous beginning that is turned around largely because of an inspiring patriotic talk she gives her fifth-grade class, passionately warning them against spies--a subject personified for her by Mr. Panzi, an unfriendly local shoemaker who seems strange because he is foreign-born. Later events make her reevaluate her assumptions, especially after bullies attack Mr. Pansi during a calamitous Halloween celebration. Though the story here grows more involving as it progresses to its satisfying conclusion, this is one of Corcoran's weaker efforts.