Conly (Crazy Lady, 1993, etc.) continues to shift focus from the bright, charming rats of NIMH to people, this time in the sensitive story of Shana, 13, who comes of age in the summer after her family begins to fall apart. Granddaddy recently died of cancer; Shana's father has been lured to New York City by a waitress and dreams of the artistic life. Mama's career move transplants Shana and brother Cody from the flora and fauna of the Castle River to the pristine suburb of Laglade. They find refuge for the summer in a ramshackle cabin on the Leanna River, where Shana and Cody have company--a mean-mouthed old forest ranger and a hungry cat they call Felix--that bids fair to replace the people they've lost. Aspiring writer Shana's way with words grows as she narrates; she shares a wealth of nature lore and, at the end, a thrilling canoe ride that almost, but not quite, saves a life. The ending is not happily-ever-after but still sturdily optimistic, since in the course of the book these believable, sympathetic characters have found strength, talent, and resolve.