THE CYBIL WAR
Young love, fifth-grade variety, portrayed with warmth and humor and that extra, penetrating touch one expects of Byars. Simon Newton has actually loved Cybil Ackerman since second grade when she supported him in a bad classroom moment shortly after his father left home. It was during the same "awful" period that Simon and fatherless Tony Angotti became friends--"sealed together by a mutual loss rather than mutual interest." But now Tony's lies and tricks as he attempts to beat Simon's time with Cybil cause Simon to question that friendship. When things come to a head with a mixed-up afternoon movie date, Simon's mother has some perceptive things to say about poor Tony, who will never realize that he's his own worst enemy. Crumb as he is, we've seen Tony's human side in some touching moments with his weepy grandfather. But the story's real emotional dimension comes from Simon's feelings about his absent father: in a few well-placed words Byars documents his evolution from the initial desolation and pathetic daydreams to the present dull ache and then, in his relationship with Tony, a facing-up that sets him apart from his irresponsible father. (The story's only flaw is Byars' implicit dig at long-hairs, environmentalists, and vegetarians, apropos this contrast.) Oh yes, the young hero does end up with the girl, on an after-the-movies bicycle ride more suited than the movie date to their age and inclinations.