In this prequel to Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade, DeClements incisively reports on grade-school life in a story about the impact of a parent's death. Marianne's mother has been killed in a plane crash. The resulting adjustments Marianne must make erode her classroom concentration, which may prevent her from joining the ""Wizards,"" a school-wide group of achievers. Her friend Jack may not be joining either, but his problem results from compulsive mischief-making. His worry about Marianne draws her out, and his suggestion that she obtain a wolf-dog proves a turning point, as Marianne's relationship with Kipluck helps her begin to come to terms with her grief--a process helped along by a move to a new house and her father's growing friendship with a woman she admires. At the close, Jack is learning to control some of his impulses (with Marianne's help) and Marianne is successfully beginning to adjust. Marianne's story is sumplistic but highly readable while, once again, DeClements draws her characters with strong, brisk strokes. Uncomplicated, but entertaining.