With the same no-nonsense vigor that is the hallmark of her historical novels for children, Sutcliff recalls her first 25 years--making only the most matter-of-fact references to her permanent crippling by Still's Disease, a rare form of juvenile arthritis. Born in 1920 in Surrey, Rosemary was forever shifting from place to place as a child: her quiet father was a naval officer, stationed in the Mediterranean ("To this day the name 'Malta' means bells to me"), then dockyards at Sheerness and Chatham. Her mother was Spartan, volatile, doting, difficult: "She was wonderful, no mother could have been more wonderful. But ever after, she demanded that I should not forget, nor cease to be grateful, nor hold an opinion different from her own, nor even, as I grew older, feel the need for any companionship but hers." Sutcliff remembers: sojourns with edgy relatives; beloved playmate Giles, imprisoned (like Rosemary at times) in his "spinal carriage," but peripatetic in his one hour of free exercise each day; terrible loneliness when isolated at home; useful stints at ordinary schools ("no child, I believe, should go to a special school who can possibly cope and be coped with in a normal one"); and grim/cheerful times at children's hospitals--where Rosemary was "the stranger whom the pack turns on." (Class-conflict was more primal than the shared experience of being handicapped.) Later came art school, with training--and technical success--as a portrait miniaturist. But "I could not cope with harsh realities in paint." So Rosemary, a late-reader who discovered book-ecstasy in L. M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon, developed "the itch to write"--an itch that was seriously deepened by her odd 1940s love (wondrous, hurtful) for ex-RAF man Rupert, who was interested in a mÃ‰nage Ã trois. . . with a non-handicapped woman as the third party. Brief (140 pp.) but rich, frank but never sloppy: a crisp little gem for Sutcliff fans and connoisseurs of childhood-memoirs.