Only in her handling of one small boy- Theo- is there any kinship of this new book with her earlier work. The Magnificent Barb and Black Renegade were successful boy and horse stories; Dream in the Stone was a Gaelic fantasy of sorts with a mystic aspect that didn't come off; A Circle of Trees (1955), though set back in Minnesota in the '80's, was a story dependent more on background than incident, with a certain wistful quality that made it endearing. Now comes The Madstone, which never quite takes form as a novel. It is an intimate, endearing record of three children, two sisters in the throes of adolescence, and a small brother, and their growing up days in the lakeside cottage where they assume all their summer holidays will be spent. Theo counts each day- almost each hour- in unutterable bliss. And only their dour widowed mother casts a blight over them, as she sets standards of behaviour which they fail to meet- and at the end, announces as a virtually accomplished fact, the sale of the house- a punishment for their failures. The story stays in mind as a complete breakdown of communication between children and an adult; as a warm and compassionate study of the relations of the children with their grandparents; as an understanding picture of the importance of place in children's lives. But as a story, there is little development; it remains a collection of pieces, the parts better than the whole.