In the Coconino Nathional Forest of Arizona 15 year old Alec Temple arrives at new levels of meaning when he is permitted to keep a lion cub whose mother hunter Sam Fellows has shot. With his father, the new District Ranger, keeping him at a distance, and Sam not persuading him that Rusty will not grow up tamed, the cub becomes his whole world even when summer tourists believe him a threat. But when a canyon fire strikes, his father's need for him helps to break the barrier and Rusty's escape, although accepted, must be proved to have worked out all right. After the winter, Alec and Sam are speeded in their search for him with the hiring of another hunter to kill Rusty, and the race -- to find the young lion and save him from death. Rusty found -- and freed, Alec achieves an adult understanding of compassion for his father, for Sam -- and Rusty. A lot of outdoors here for a boy and animal story that steers clear of sentimentality and that is simple in its youth-age antagonisms and relationships. A good bet as a family story.