This is fifteen year old Joey Larkin's story. His older brother Jerry is a talented, hard-working pianist, and his younger brother Jock is already beginning to show unusual intelligence. But Joey's the classic middle child, the one who gets the least attention and has the least distinction. The Year of the Raccoon was the year that Joey felt inferior and then discovered his own special ability--he is really the human core, the mainstay of the Larkin family. Mr. Larkin is success oriented and he likes to see things (and people) work out according to the most ambitious plans possible. Joey doesn't have any ""special interest,"" he just likes to be and to feel, and he likes to be a part of the freedom of the farm which is his father's wholesome hobby. ""You think everybody has to be doing something constructive all the time. And I should be satisfied with packaged time-fillers or something.... Well, I don't work that way. You can't buy me an Instant-Do-Something and expect me to be happy."" Joey rescues a baby raccoon, Bertie, a difficult animal to keep around the house, and the others resent the way Bertie continually disrupts any organization. But Bertie brings out Joey's capacity to feel affection and to behave responsibly. It takes time for the rest of the family to recognize that it is always Joey who copes in emergencies and who is most aware of the others' sensitivities. The strength of these qualities is acutely demonstrated throughout this story, and the various family relationships and their ramifications are particularly well handled. Although fairly quiet, this is a very personal book that boys can respond to.