A nine-year-old boy with a sense of humor is hard enough to bring to the printed page (or snag in a library), but if you'll latch on to a live one, Betsy Byars has his match. Tommy is not the first hung-up juvenile hero but he is one of the best, and he remembers that summer with Aunt Millie, Uncle Fred and Hazeline with straight-from-the-(skinny)-shoulder sincerity. A non-athlete who knows animals come from miles around just to chase him, he deplores the idea of summer on a farm while his parents bicycle through Europe and friend Perle stays at home. But he goes ("Control," his father says) and spends the first two days saying he's "just fine" and wondering when they'll stop asking. It's not what he does (see a certain black fox fifteen times, not all included) but how he tells it that makes him such a stand-out, and his digressions (watching an ant on Petie's sneakers, counting hand wrinkles to calculate the day he'll die) are steady, smooth and well-spaced. The laughs are most frequent in the beginning, which gets a reader's attention, and the sly, slow build-up to the final black fox episode is as firm as you could ask for.