Robby Hummer (Nekomah Creek, 1991, etc.) is now a year older and has a better teacher; and his small Oregon community is no longer questioning his parents' domestic arrangements (happy-go-lucky Dad is in charge of the rambunctious three-year-old twins, while artist Mom works outside the home). This holiday season the fifth-grader's concerns involve a school play, a relic of the '40s chosen as safe from any religious complaints. Its quality, however, is dreadful; and when best friend Jesse bows out, Robbie finds himself cast as Head Elf, despite his reluctance to perform in public. Meanwhile, in the National Forest where Alfie, a reclusive Vietnam vet, can sometimes be heard bemoaning his troubles, the family cuts their allotted Christmas tree and little Freddie loses his beloved toy, Buddy Wabbit. Money's tight after Mom loses a contract, the IRS decides to audit, and Robby dreads the holiday arrival of cousins he remembers as non simpatico. As might be expected, all this works out pleasantly (Mom and Dad overpaid the IRS), with plenty of comic turns and some that are gratifyingly unexpected. And if Robby's musings about his classmates' differing beliefs and his own are obviously crafted to cover the ground from fundamentalist to atheist, they are also believably those of a thoughtful 10-year-old from an undogmatic, churchgoing family. Wholesome, easily read fare, funny and wonderfully true to life. Once again, the Hummers are winners.