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Fleming Healy's boyhood features a zany and beneficent Academy to train ""ladylike girls and refined small boys"", run by a cluster of nuns. The desks consisted of small mahogany tables with a single glass knobbed drawer, supplemented by Windsor chairs; the athletics program was confined to a single grass tennis court frequented by pasturing cows, and an Indian-wand-waving lady of magnificent health and proportions who led her small charges in a grand march. Having had the sense knocked into what the family feared was an Irish thickhead, Fleming joined the school revels, most noticeably nscholastic and often agonizing -- as with impossible theatrical roles, or spinning-the-bottle at a terrible birthday party, or waltzing with the most unwanted girl in dancing class because she alone would dance with him. Between-times there were neighborhood encounters with characters such as Mr. Mulrooney who lived on his ""proceeds"", or events such as the advent of the First Ford on the block (returned for want of brakes), or the club in Nick Hill's chicken coop. The parting celebration of the Academy, reached for the ""refined small boys"" at the end of fourth grade, had the typical flair for the ludicrous: the boys trooped out into the wet with their umbrellas held high for the inevitable picnic, rain or shine -- and lifting their voices in their last official, song, sang ""with sunshiny faces"" in the rain. Despite the now familiar nostalgic vein, this has its moments of delightful invention.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1963
Publisher: Lippincott