At first glance, two people could hardly be less alike than that irrepressible inventor, Junior Blossom, and Mad Mary Cantrell, rural equivalent of a bag lady. Junior is a little boy from a close-knit, if impoverished, family, newly in touch with the world since last year's triumph in The Not-lust-Anybody Family, proud of his recently built coyote trap. Mad Mary went to school with his grandfather, back when she was the daughter of the town's wealthiest citizen; but, having lost home and family, she has escaped the trap of civilization and retreated to a mountain cave, subsisting, like a vulture, on small dead animals left by cars along the road. When Junior gets caught in his own trap, it is she who finds and rescues him; and while the community organizes to "rescue" him from her, the two become friends over shared fundamentals: a pot of stew, interest in the same books, and the discovery that each yearns to speak, if only for a few minutes, with a dead father. Trust Byars to come up with a story not like anyone else's and to tell it with lightness and humor, clarity and simplicity, extracting every bit of drama from small events. Young readers entranced by the lively plot won't notice her careful, economical structure, but they'll be touched by the humanity of her marvelously quirky characters (including the persistent dog, Mud, who gets his own subplot). Rogers' soft, full-page illustrations are just right, portraits of characters at significant moments. Not to be missed.