Like many mother-child pairs even today, Lester and Mother are always together; and McGee's very fond, slightly embarrassing little posies, complete with apt, amusing drawings, make that seem at first glance a warm and happy way to be. Whether Lester is observing his parents' dinner-table argument about spaghetti sauce, or getting separated from his mother in a big department store, or simply playing pickup sticks with her, this is obviously an inside job. And the author/ mother of the piece does have her winning ways--if only she weren't so self-effacing. Lester's mother is frightened of riding in Mr. Smith's plane, of bike-riding where trucks pass, and even of hauling in Lester's fish when he has wandered off (""I hope it's not too big"")--all adventures that Lester faces with relish. (One can't help wondering how an older Lester will be expected to pay for all this boosting.) McGee ends with Lester, on the bike trip, asking his mother: ""'Well, sweetie, are you ready?' This was the first time he ever called her that. . . . Then--ZOOMO--off they went, Lester and Mother, down the road together."" lt's hardly an auspicious send-off--nor, with Lester so encumbered, is it likely to inspire the six-to-nine-year-old readers the publishers designate. But it's better not to look too closely at Lester and Mother; these billets doux really seem to be for them alone.