Here, a subject which could be dealt with heavy-handedly is handled with the lightest of touches. Twelve-year-old Pip must learn to trust others before he can trust himself enough to show faith and responsibility. His grandmother's farm in Vermont is the perfect place for his voyage of self-discovery, and the summer he and his sister Emma spend there is not without its trials and tests. A highly suspenseful adventure with two escaped convicts, Pip's personal war with a trusted yet untrustworthy neighbor, and his near-fatal battle with meningitis help him to discover a strength and inner peace of which he has been only barely aware. Pip's grandmother, Gee, and even his great-grandmother, Mamie, who has been dead for almost two years, emerge as strong, loving, and infinitely wise women. The descriptions of the Vermont countryside and life at Bell Brook Farm are evocative and satisfying. Unfortunately, the weakest link in the exciting chain of events that memorable summer is Pip's brush with death. Predictable and unimaginative, it describes the out-of-body experience of those who have nearly died--the sensation of floating out of one's body, etc.--with no surprises. Young readers may dismiss the incident as either unbelievable or too pat. It's sad, too, that as much of Pip's new confidence and trust develops from this unlikely experience as from his more solid ones with Gee and Emma. Nevertheless, Pip and Emma are two likable characters with whom readers will enjoy spending a summer.