Kelsey and her single mother, Aubrey, occupy the top of an N.Y.C. brownstone; her friend Sam's family lives below. The girls, about to enter eighth grade, are inseparable, calling themselves ""cloakwomen"" who race toward the safety of a hallowed castle in exciting imaginary adventures. Into Kelsey's life comes an injured raven, via an unused chimney; into Aubrey's, an attractive chimney-sweep who rescues the bird and builds housing for it on their roof. The raven, whose apt mimicry of human speech is always cunning and usually profound, seems a natural part of an alternately enchanted and upsetting summer when Kelsey and Sam's friendship survives some bitter blows and when a climactic water-main break and gas explosion create the crucible from which Kelsey's new family is born. Multilayered, affecting, alive with the concerns of young teenagers, and crafted in an invigorating style that moves fluidly among Kelsey's dreams, her down-to-earth perceptions of people, and her fantasies. Its epic themes unfold in ordinary cityscapes, through acts of heroism and generosity by simple yet noble human beings. First-class.