The author of a YA book about some comically bizarre parents--Al Capsella and the Watchdogs, 1991--zeros in on an equally bizarre preadolescent. Though orange-haired Sophia is an almost surreal enfant terrible--terrorizing her conventional Australian neighborhood with pungently accurate observations and driving her meek, rather dim mother, Mrs. Throstle, nearly to despair--her story's outcome is less astonishing than she is. One of the neighbors the irrepressible Sophia barges in on is Theodore, who writes books. Unlike her other victims, he welcomes her, though even he is taken aback by her outrageously candid remarks. Meanwhile, Sophia has found that not only reading (which she does only late at night) but also writing relieves her chronic boredom; and she's noticed that classmate Sam, who is as painfully shy as Sophia is gauche, draws wonderful pictures. Pausing along the way for Theodore to tell a couple of amusingly wacky and pointed stories, Clarke maneuvers the kids into friendships with first Theodore and then each other, with a romance for Theodore himself thrown in for good measure. Broad but lively humor, with a not-too-obvious moral or two.