In order to buy a birthday gift of cowboy boots that are the dearest wish of Jimmy, a wheelchair-bound boy with whom Eric babysits, Eric negotiates a series of swaps. The resulting mathematical complications would be enough to make an entertaining story, but McGraw laces this with other values and meanings. Eric doesn't happen on his transactions in sequence; he puzzles and plans in advance, considering, adding, and discarding strategies. Confiding in no one, he's a quietly persistent boy who solves his problem with unassuming tenderness towards the needs of his clients, a delightful array of quirky characters. He won't trade his dead mother's silver thimble, since it reminds him of her; he won't give Dad a hard time about sticking with a dead-end job instead of trying to make a comeback as a librarian (he was laid off during budget cuts), but as his 17th swap he'll decide it's better to take a few chances and strike out on his own. In Eric, veteran McGraw has a winner, a boy any other boy or girl would be glad to have as a friend.