If the name Watts had no overtones, this would still be a good book. And Lillie's ups and downs would be appealing no matter what her color. But Watts is here what it is--a blend of crowded housing and scarred storefronts and sturdy palm trees, a place where people are forebearing like Lillie's mother (who works as a domestic in Malibu) or restive like her older sister Evelyn (when Mama tells her to get clothes out of her head, she mutters ""that she would be happy to, when she can get some on her back""). The story centers on Lillie's three bad days. The first, her birthday, starts well: Mama lets her wear her best sweater and skirt, (black) teacher Mr. Knox plays ""Happy Birthday"" on his violin. Then a classmate spills paint on her sweater and Lillie, trying to wash out the stain, ruins it altogether. In disgrace, she is denied a trip to Malibu and further disheartened when Mama brings her employer's cat to stay overnight. Terrified by Grandma's tales of death-dealing cats, Lillie lets it out, is told the next morning to ""find that cat (or) don't come back."" But before the cat turns up (near home), Lillie, prompted by Mama, realizes that ""people are more important than cats, sweaters and (money for) cars."" The narrative neither minces nor wastes words; the illustrations, too, are uncommonly expressive--faces strongly modeled and firmly shaded, the rest a few spare lines. The only thing that may hamper the book (besides its blatant title) is the picture book sizing; it's about a credible eleven-year-old though written on the third-fourth grade level.