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A 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy overcomes tremendous odds in White's (Surviving Antarctica) often affecting but overstuffed novel set in 1968. Sam Davis's father has abandoned him and his mother, and she in turn has delegated most of his care, emotional as well as physical, to a nurse, prim Miss Perkins. An émigré raised in London during the blitz, Miss Perkins has nurtured Sam on the books of Winston Churchill, with the result that the boy has a vivid imaginary friendship with "Winnie." When the boy enters a public school for the first time, with Miss Perkins at his side, the other students and even the teacher wonder if he is much more than a vegetable—until he uses a letter tray to spell out what proves to be a prize-winning essay on Churchill, and until his close observations of the playground yield good tips for the school basketball team. All this would be drama enough, but White also adds the mother's sudden marriage and institutionalization of Sam (winning the essay contest helps free him). It's too bad that White doesn't stick to her imaginative portrayal of Sam; readers might be put off by the excesses and distanced by the historical setting. Ages 9—12. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.