The cozy disarray of London nursery-schooler Alfie's world, richly portrayed in Hughes' representational watercolors (a contrast with characteristic American sketchiness), is the setting for another affecting, warming stage-of-growth. Alfie's set to go to best-friend Bernard's birthday party, his first; and, apprehensive, he clutches ""his old bit of blanket."" Bernard behaves obstreperously (to his mother's nicely controlled dismay). Shy Asian Min cries, and clings to Alfie for protection. (The children are a polyglot group, but so individually characterized that skin colors don't stand out.) And Alfie, so he can hold her hand (as well as Bernard's) in a play-circle, makes the ""brave decision"" to put his blanket down, in a safe place. ""Mia stopped crying. She wasn't frightened of Bernard in his tiger mask now that she was holding Alfie's hand."" Leavened by birthday-party abandon, even the final praise for Alfie's helpfulness, and his foreshadowed farewell to the blanket, don't seem tendentious.