Jukes brings her practiced ear for humorous dialogue and her keen eye for the right detail to this story about the power of childlike faith and determination. Emma, seven, runs a school for her family's animals in which, to her older brother Bob's disgust, she is teaching them to read. At ten, Bob considers himself beyond such childishness, as he vociferously states to his parents, who regard both children with slightly frayed amusement. One November evening, Emma announces that the class has discussed putting Christmas tree lights on the palm tree in their yard (""Give me a break,"" groans Bob) and goes out to conduct a reading quiz for Highpockets (the horse). When Bob fetches Emma for dinner, he gets a sharp lesson in the power of belief, taught by Highpockets (who also, by the way, passes his quiz). Jukes wisely leaves ambiguous the question of whether Emma does or does not completely believe in her own actions, but makes it clear that it would be possible to think that animals talk, especially if they are asked the fight questions. Emma is a nicely serene, self-contained young heroine who is easily the equal of older brothers everywhere; the rest of her family is comically credible. Schuett's dark-toned illustrations add to the mysterious feel of the story, though Emma looks a little old. Another acutely drawn portrait of a lovingly real family from Jukes.