I can't learn things, but anything I want to know sticks."" That's why Victor, an ""ignorant slob"" at school, is an expert on the military planes that sweep over the Norfolk neighborhood where Andrew has just come to live. In his disorganized, tolerant household, Andrew can do as he likes but can't get a decent cup of coffee; Victor's mother is a fanatical housekeeper but she does set a proper table--and before the oppressiveness of Victor's situation sinks in, Andrew has twinges of envy. Victor, on the other hand, even warms to Andrew's naturally obstreperous baby brother. He eagerly takes up the suggestion that he keep a guinea pig--""his"" guinea pig--in Andrew's hutch. And he gladly, gratefully drinks down a whole thermos of Mrs. Mitchell's ghastly coffee. In one after another brief incident or passing remark, Victor is revealed to Andrew and to the reader--who, at the same time, comes to appreciate the Mitchells for better or worse (when his two clever parents start talking, for instance, Andrew tenses up with fear of being ""squeezed out""). But this spare, rich book, the 1976 Carnegie Medal winner, has an absorbing external dimension too in Victor's passion for the redoubtable Lightnings that, he's afraid, will soon be displaced at the local airfield. He's not only right, it turns out, he and Andrew are there to see the shiny new Jaguars arrive. But, as Andrew's mum has remarked, ""there's no such thing as fairness""--and Victor, if not Andrew, already knows it. The jacket, featuring the planes, will draw youngsters into the story before they're aware of its depths or its reach.