Billy Joe really is fighting three wars at once: there's his conflict with a bullying teacher; there's World War II which kills off one brother and sends back a second, Gene, supposedly wounded and behaving very mysteriously; and, finally, there's war with Ma who insists on a man's work around the farm but still doles out kid's portions--including the hated chicken neck which sets off Billy Joe's hunger strike. It all adds up to plenty of trouble for one boy, especially when the schoolteacher is found murdered the day after whupping Billy Joe and the other older boys. But the resolution pushes this tale into the realm of slick entertainment. It seems brother Gene (actually a spy for our side) shot the teacher (actually a Nazi spy. . . though what he was doing stationed in a rural Arkansas one-room school is never explained). Further after winning recognition of his manhood from Ma, the final scene has Billy Joe thrashed for feeding the chicken neck to the dog and apparently sentenced to eating his least favorite food ""forever and evermore""--an outcome which anyone who followed Billy Joe vicariously through months of semi-starvation simply won't be able to credit, much less laugh at. Thinner in all directions than previous Branscum, this still has its share of Arkansas grit and so many battles going on at once that readers won't have time to blink.