Eleven-year-old Jeff Childs is the kind of kid who writhes in shame over allowing an accident to happen while baby sitting, though the hurt child's parents praise Jeff roundly for his handling of the emergency. His self-esteem is further damaged by the school bully's perpetual taunts. (""What's the matter, Childish? Diaper rash?"") Jeff's only friend is neighbor Bix, an eight-year-old, and even Bix urges skinny Jeff to stand up to strongman Dewey instead of slinking home each day. His only consolation is a fantasy adventure he writes with himself as hero and Dewey as the villain he turns to dust with a newly-invented pulverizer gun. But after one day away from school pretending to be sick because he can't face Dewey, Jeff decides he's had it. He stands up to the bully, gets beaten up as expected, but becomes the class hero in the process. As Jeff has already won readers' empathy with his real feelings and their appreciation with his wry sixth-grade humor, Conford's audience will feel as pleased as the playground crowd.