West Alley is not just a place. It is a state of mind. . ."" and this is supervised slumming in three homes with directions to the exit. Willy (""dark"") runs away with best friend Joe (""towheaded"") but returns when he reads he has won a science contest, even though he knows he'll have to watch his mother wash and iron his single set of clothes every night. Maria surprises even a pessimistic sister when her hope of going on the class trip becomes a possibility because each of her classmates buys one of the bags her mother has been knitting all winter (although none of the stores or neighbors will). Jimmy realizes West Alley is no more confining than ""towheaded"" Larry's wheelchair when the paralyzed boy gets up (for the first time) to save the other's sketches from blowing in the wind. In each case the parents are relentlessly hard workers, the children dissatisfied but not morose. The first is the most acceptable as drama because the boy is responsible for the movement; the second relies on extremely well-motivated and poised classmates -- they may represent Maria's vision but they don't involve her; the third is virtual miracle-working despite the psychological handicap diagnosis. Good starts, goody-goody finishes.