A humorous, occasionally uneven epistolary novel from a promising new author records the adventures of Venola Mae Cutright, 11, of Belington, West Virginia. She writes to her best friend (away at camp) about her summer job as a paper carrier, her fights with her brothers, trials with warts, and a new friend, elderly Miss Wilma Facemeir, who lives over the local funeral home. Venola also corresponds with the circulation manager of her newspaper and the complaint department of the novelty company whose overpriced ""sea monkeys"" (actually brine shrimp) Venola unsuccessfully tries to hatch and raise. (Readers unfamiliar with the misleading magazine ads for these creatures may be mystified.) The plot is little more than a string of comic episodes, interrupted near the end by Miss Wilma's diatribe against mortuary practices, which is in startling contrast to the light tone elsewhere. The local color is laid on a bit thickly and stereotypically at times, and Venola's lapses in grammar and spelling are sometimes more contrivance than childlike. Beyond that, Venola is a fresh, funny heroine and Miss Wilma is the kind of outrageous, earthy old lady every child needs for a friend, at least once.