The mild misadventures of an unlikely pair of friends, set against a dilapidated, southern, semirural backdrop. When ten-year-old Raymond Brock moves with his family to a trailer park near Fuller, Alabama, he leaves behind his best and only friend, Grandpa Jasper, but falls in with Bruce, ne'er-do-well son of the local junkman. Bruce has a hide-out, a dog named Floppy, and unquenchable enthusiasm; he energetically enlists an often-reluctant Raymond's help for various ill-conceived projects, culminating in an aborted attempt to jump a train, leaving Floppy badly injured. Meanwhile, Raymond survives both physical and emotional challenges here, from climbing a steep quarry wall to learning to accept friendship. The author works her themes into the story in subtle, appropriate ways. She does not do so well with characters, especially females: Raymond's older brother and sister are forever whining or shouting; his classmate Henrietta is a shrill, bossy hanger-on; and his fifth-grade teacher changes in midstream from a harsh, punitive ogre to a committed, caring person. Gibbons' efforts to give everyone a redeeming feature are not convincing. This may not grab the imagination as Mark Twain's (or, to use a modern example, Otto Salassi's) books do, but it belongs to the same storytelling tradition, and ends on a happy note.