After six years teaching emotionally disturbed children--the children who inspired Lovey (1976) and A Circle of Children (1974)--Mary MacCracken found herself an undergraduate again, completing degree requirements abandoned twenty-five years before. How does a forty-five-year-old woman, recently remarried, cope with courses that demand a recorder performance of ""Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"" or fifty laps in the college pool? Reluctantly, and with misgivings. But MacCracken really shines in one-to-one tutoring sessions with Lucas Brauer, the kid she rescues from oblivion. Luke, at seven, has a record of twenty-four arrests: truancy, theft, arson. Face to face, though, he's a prize, and the progress he makes is extraordinary. Other children briefly share the limelight (loopy Louisa Mae, rat-faced Bobby Ferraro), and a small cluster of adults give MacCracken the kind of support she needs. Several resemble figures from urban-school books of the late 1960s (this takes place in 1970), but this is no mere rerun. MacCracken also interweaves her own ordeals--the foolish ed. courses, her mother's sickness and death--with those of Luke and friends. Although the college professionals almost always know less than she does, and the kids just as often show her the way, there is a record here of genuine personal development and, refreshingly, there are glimpses of a city school that works. Give it high marks for effort and readability, something less for those tired education-college characterizations.