Cass's father has lost his Minneapolis teaching job, and the family has moved to the North Shore of Lake Superior where he's working as a state trooper and helping Cass's Mom run her retired parents' small resort. Yet 12-year-old Cass, who feels he's lost everything (and mopes a lot), has quickly found an affinity with the woods, the ""inland sea,"" an old local fisherman. The conflicted feelings, typical of American uprootings (and articulated passionately by the adults), and the particularized plow-horse-and-iron-ore locale--""this strange mixture of wilderness and heavy industry"" (as Cass's Dad puts it)--give a substantial reality to what devolves into a fairly routine disaster-and-new-friendship tale. Cass's bugaboo is schoolmate Anselm, who does seem to be the tormentor Cass claims--until peevish Cass stands up to the teacher, until he builds a ""matchless fire"" on a survival outing. And when Anselm accidentally starts a fire with Cass's battery in school, he steps forward to exonerate Cass--who then defends him. But Cass, fixated on his father's new harshness and afraid of his wrath, heads off to a lakeside cave where he's secreted supplies. In the almost-inevitable blizzard, he saves the survivors of a foundering ship, with Anselm's inevitable help. The self-proving adventure is at least accomplished with dispatch, and a few deflating jabs from Anselm. (For one thing, all the locals know about the moose Cass thought he was protecting.) Thomas (Elizabeth Catches a Fish, The Comeback Dog) gets considerable social mileage out of outdoor doings, and also describes the doings as if she's done them.