From the author of The Great Dimpole Oak (1987), a story about an unusual friendship between two imaginative girls--well-cared for Hillary, 9, and Sara-Kate, 11, who is secretly tending her mentally-ill mother. No one at school likes Sara-Kate, whose backyard adjoins Hillary's, until Sara-Kate invites Hillary to look at an ""elf village"" of sticks, stones, and leaves in her yard. Thereafter, Hillary is loyal to Sara-Kate, despite her odd clothes and the Cream-of-Wheat she takes to school for lunch; she doesn't even mind being excluded from Sara-Kate's house: Hillary is fascinated by Sara-Kate's vivid stories, half believing that Sara-Kate herself is an elf. Eventually, however, Hillary blunders into Sara-Kate's cold, almost bare house and finds that she alone is caring for her emotionally disturbed mother, with little money or food. Though Sara-Kate weaves an elaborate tissue of lies as explanation, the deception is over when Hillary's mother discovers the truth: the mother is institutionalized. Sara-Kate is sent to relatives, leaving Hillary to resolve her confusion and grief at the sudden parting and the end of her imaginative dream. In clear language sparkling with fresh images, Lisle tells her tale as compellingly as Hillary is drawn into Sara-Kate's fantasies. A remarkable, perceptive book to share aloud or savor alone.