Not crazy, just eccentric,"" and so's the book. It begins with Barney and newcomer Sam barging around, working up courage to confront the Crazy Lady, discovering that she hailed them for nothing more mysterious than to mow the lawn. Then it switches to the hostility between Barney's mother (standoffish) and Sam's (resentful), reverts to the Crazy Lady locked in her house and helpless (like countless fictional predecessors), introduces (after her also-familiar rescue) the possibility of an interloper (sinister sounds, a missing coin collection), cuts intermittently to the families becoming more human, and climaxes in the single-handed capture of the thief (the Crazy Lady's former handyman) by the two boys. Snappy dialogue and the untidy plot make it different but it's a kind of difference that can be self-defeating (i.e. implausible, erratic, diffuse).