Thirteen-year-old Sam is bored and disgruntled on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where his professor stepfather Lawrence is taping folk tales and Ma plans to write a children's book about the island. Then Sam is taken in hand by Eulalia, a native St. Lucian his age, who introduces him to the coconut workers, the boat builders, her large family with its large, welcoming mother (only 28 years old, Sam learns), her grandmother the obeah woman, and other bits of island life his parents will never know. They, on their part, take up with the British banana-company manager and his wife, urge Sam to be nice to the British couple's daughter Rosie, 14, and finally forbid his association with Eulalia, whom they vaguely suspect of sexual facets. Early on Lawrence kills a deadly fer-de-lance snake with his machete, and you know that there will be another encounter. It comes when Rosie and Sam have become friends and she is ""knocked"" by a fer-de-lance on a secret outing. She'll die without help, but Sam knows from Eulalia to go for Racine, the local healer, and not to the British hospital where she would only get a tetanus shot. Rosie recovers with Racine's help and later, Eulalia's diligent nursing; the three young people become a trio before Sam leaves the island; and Sam, flabby and easily winded on arrival (and shown up by the two athletic girls), shapes up under Eulalia's persistent coaching. The values, then, are a little growth for Sam, respect for the St. Lucians, and exposure to a different environment and culture. The trouble is that too much of the story reads like a guidebook (""She showed him papaya and explained how the leaves were used to tenderize meat and the green fruit was cooked into a kind of applesauce . . ."") and the rest like a gentle blueprint for inland relationships and attitudes. None of this is heavy-handed, but it doesn't do much as fiction.