Plainly stated, a fearless girl puts some spunk into a timorous, admiring little boy. In psychological parlance, we might say that Anna Banana--crawling under a park bench into the bushes, dashing up into a dark, forbidding hallway, exuberantly smashing her sand castle--shows up the narrator to himself (she never suggests he's wanting), and so helps him confront his fears. And the conventionalized ending, involving a scarey story, a momentary right, and a talisman, does imply such. But the crisp, fresh-air pictures (of what regulars will recognize as New York's Central Park), and the electric figure of bespectacled, shaggy-haired Anna Banana herself, always running off with a blithe ""Bye,"" also embody a kind of free spirit that, encountered in childhood, sticks in the memory as an ideal. So the book may leave behind a flicker of wistfulness that, like any real emotion, is not to be disparaged either.