Shadow, the crow, isn't even a shadow until halfway through, and then he's mostly a bone of contention; you never do learn just how eleven-year-old Willie makes a pet of the fledgling he takes from its nest. Motherless Willie's a worrier--about a forbidden tractor fide, about his bratty new step-sister, about his poor marks--but Dad and married sister Jessica and brother-in-law Bill cope until Shadow comes between Willie and sister Carol. She tries to kill the crow, Jessica quarrels with stepmother Anna over her, and the two-family household splits, Jessica and Bill moving out with Willie. But being the caretaker of an estate isn't satisfying to farm-fond Bill; there's another kid as obnoxious as Carol--Lew, son of the estate owner (subsequently de-snobbed); Dad can't keep file farm going with hired help; Anna regrets her obduracy; and--inexplicably--Carol reforms. All point to reconciliation and Shadow makes the entente cordial: he alerts Willie (now an older and wiser Will) to a fire in the barn where Carol is playing. At the fadeout she is feeding him fish. . . . Still, the crow is a decoy and the book's so dead serious that it puts ""showing off"" and ""fooling"" in quotes--no fooling.