A not-so-alien boy from another universe inadvertently spends a year in Texas. In Ahto's world, where he is studying to be a healer and a priest, birds are revered and music is the highest scholarship. Then, at midwinter, Ahto loses both himself and his world in a dense fog and lands abruptly in the path of Paula and Peter, who are biking to their first day of school after Christmas. Even though Ahto is clearly alien (he doesn't have nose, ears or hair, and has just three fingers on each hand), he is also a boy in need; impulsively, they take him to school and introduce him as their cousin from Brazil. Thanks to his marvelous singing voice--as well as the intervention of the singing teacher--Ahto escapes being sent to a special school and joins Paula's fifth-grade class, where he endures hazing and learns English. Ahto also participates in some small, and large, changes in his adoptive family--until the next midwinter when, after singing a solo in the Christmas pageant, he finds his way home through another dense fog. Paula and her family are fully realized characters; Ahto, stranded but game, is an especially convincing portrait of a boy struggling to make friends and learn a new language in a strange place. An impressive first novel from a compelling storyteller.