Bentley Beaver from cradle to grave--with more than a whiff of the Frances books (even apart from Lillian Hoban's familiarly endearing animal figures). The similarity isn't detrimental--Sharmat has captured the fondness, the inflections, the offside appreciations. There is a focus, moreover: with five sticks of wood, little Bentley makes a little house; and as he gets bigger, his houses get bigger. There is also an emotional hook-up: on the first day of school Bentley B. meets Belinda B., and both confess to being scared. They also share a pleasure in music. And Sharmat gracefully manages their passage from cunningness to adolescence, marriage, parenthood, grandparenthood. Somewhere along after Bentley takes up the guitar: ""'What do you think about being all grown up?' Bentley asked Belinda. 'I don't know. I am still growing.'"" Better still, about having a baby: ""'It is scary,' said Belinda, 'like going to school for the first time.'"" Yes, it's she who has the quips, while Bentley builds and sings. His song--""My life's been good,/ Been good with wood""--is appended. Sentimental, but not mawkish.