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A predictable first novel that's redeemed by a fresh, believable third-person voice. Poppy Field, named by her poet mother for Flanders's famous symbol(!), has set her heart on winning the annual swimming competition when--in the book's first sentence--she breaks her leg by falling off the forbidden roof of her home while spying on old Mrs. Kootabelli (""Cootie"") next door. It takes Poppy weeks to confess that she didn't fall from a tree, and longer still to learn that the accident wasn't caused by Cootie's witchy pointing finger and to acquire sympathy for the lonely old lady--a process facilitated by writing poems about Cootie, and even more by rescuing her when she is trapped in a fire in her yard. Poppy doesn't get her cast off in time for the contest, but she does make a satisfying splash in a final scene at the local beach. Characters are nicely individualized, sharply drawn, and engaging; their lively dialogue keeps the story moving. Poppy is a likably imperfect young protagonist; her parents are firm and sensible, but also refreshingly fallible. An unusually promising debut.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1992
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Bradbury