An unusually perceptive first novel, reminiscent--in its treatment of the loss of a baby and its sensitively drawn portrait of a whole family and its interaction--of Ellis' A Family Project (1988). Ben is hydrocephalic, destined to be a very slow learner, yet charming, happy, and well-loved--especially by his doting mother and by Anna, his older sister, who is 12 when the story begins dramatically with his birth at home. A prickly, strong individual, Anna is a loner who tends to put down her little sister despite their underlying affection for each other. Initially, the family conceals Ben to avoid the inevitable callous remarks; yet when Anna's classmates (long alienated by the chip on her shoulder) find out about him, they respond with friendship. After Ben's death, at three, Anna's grief is again complicated by others' assumptions: that his loss is a blessing, that her mother is the one who mourns. Anna's own sorrow is lessened when she volunteers to care for a four-year-old Mongoloid child, Jackie; in the process of showing Jackie's family that Jackie, like Ben, can take joy in learning, Anna happens on some truths about herself. This beautifully balanced, well-told story was a runner up for the Carnegie. Unfortunately, in its American edition, the British setting has been suppressed with tampering. inconsistent, unnecessary revisions, leaving a sort of generic family set nowhere real. Happily, however, most of its appeal is intact.