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B. J. Aiken, age eight, has an elderly grandfather whose health is in doubt almost from the outset; it's apparent, therefore, that he'll have to die before the close. To prepare B.J. (and us) for this eventuality, he's vouchsafed a page of philosophizing, midway through, in the course of which he assures her that ""The times we've had together will always belong to us"" and ""If I leave before you do, I'll wait somewhere close."" Those times together, however, are chiefly recalled in passing. Pops also tells B.J. to continue to heed ""the call of the wild""--that has just caused her to try to fly (with predictable results) from a chicken-coop roof. The book, in short, never gets off the ground as fiction and is also wanting in elementary good sense. B.J. is presumably supposed to be a madcap; but none of her other capers qualifies as inspired or even plausibly zany either. (On one occasion she springs a surprise birthday party on her mother--when it's nobody's birthday--minutes before her classmates are due to appear; the resulting dither appears to be the point of this episode--plus the kids' pleasure in the quickly-produced goodies.) B.J. and seven-year-old best friend Press don't sound like youngsters of any consistent age--and certainly not like a second- and third-grader. The emotional tugs are diffused (in another limp scene, Pops presents the girls with a prism) and at the end the book just peters out: Pops dies, B.J. withdraws in confusion, she and Press nurture tadpoles into frogs--meaning, also presumably, that life goes on. The author has no sense of fictional structure, no gift for dialogue or characterization--nothing but a prominent, weakly-embodied message.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1981
Publisher: Delacorte