From the day young Dupper makes his first scratching on a muddy tin can and names it ""Wet Grass Stems,"" he is obsessed with his creations and set apart from the simple concerns of his fellow prairie dogs. Moving the precious can back to his home burrow, he is laughed at and rebuked by his mother (""You were running around with a can on your head scaring bodies""), and when he grows up Dupper's need for a specially built burrow--with custom reflectors to light his underground art gallery-forces him to live alone, neglecting feedings to protect his works (""Snow Patterns From the Air,"" and ""Shadows of Pestamon Blossoms"" are the titles of his favorites) from the depredations of lizards. In his loneliness, Dupper makes some odd friends--the owl, Soft, who admires his scratching, and a tortoise whose life Dupper saves even though he's been taught that ""hairless bodies"" don't feel as we do. But it's the discovery of a strange inscribed mud-stone guarded by an unfriendly rattlesnake that sends Dupper on the biggest adventure of his life--to seek the help of the talking Great Ants who can explain the stone to him. In the end, even the ants don't believe in Dupper's scratchings; they warn him that only the Old Ones could make magic; but Dupper won't ""let himself believe it"" and goes right on, recording the whole episode on his best flat oval can. Dupper and his friends have the solidity of folk tale heroes along with a simple genius all their own. And in the very' disparity between Dupper's grand vision--""Everywhere I look there are patterns. Leaves and grass and shadow patterns. And I can't catch them""--and his humble tin can art you see a rare optimism at work.