Mom is off to study Native American art for three weeks, and Justin, 10, is backpacking with Grandad, leaving Dad and younger sister Tessie, the narrator, to cope on their own. Tessie's not happy about it. Willie Martin, the son of the woman taking care of her, is a pain, and Dad is preoccupied with his computer and at first even forgets to pack her a lunch or fix dinner. There's also the worrisome parallel with absent friend Mary Alice, whose parents are divorced: Will Tessie's mom really come back? Then Tessie finds a stray kitten. While looking for a possible owner, she chats with neighbors and is drafted for Mary Alice's weeding job. Thus she can help pay the expenses for Mouse, as she names the kitten. Adopting Mouse marks a turning point: Caring for the kitten starts father and daughter on the road to working and laughing together, and even little Willie calms down in order to make friends with Mouse. Written very simply by Greenwood (What About My Goldfish, 1993), in naturally cadenced prose, this realistic story about accommodating to change in a temporarily smaller family is unusually appealing. Plecas's pen-and-watercolor illustrations are nicely expressive. An excellent early chapter book.