Sally Jane Freedman lives in New Jersey with her mother, father who she nicknamed Doey-Bird because he is constantly whistling, her thirteen year old brother Douglas, and her grandmother Ma-Fanny in 1947. The war is finally over! Not long after, Douglas tries to leap over a brook in Union Woods. Sally knew not to go into Union Woods due to the strange man that hung out there. She knew that Douglas still went because he was older. He ended up dislocating his elbow. When he came home from the hospital he was still soaking wet which made their mother furious. When Sally doesn’t like to think about certain things she makes up stories in her head. So while all the commotion was happening she shut everyone out and made a story inside her head. Douglas ended up getting nephritis which is a kidney infection. Sally’s parents think that it would be a good idea to move to Florida for the winter once Douglas gets better. Sally doesn’t want to go but her mother said it would be good for Douglas. They would all go by train. When Sally learns that Doey-Bird can’t go just because he had to stay and work she was very disappointed. Her father was a dentist. She didn’t get why they had to leave him all the way in New Jersey just because of that. It just wasn’t fair. Leaving was the hardest part.
The train ride was okay. Sally met an African-American family which consisted of two little boys, a baby girl, and a mother. Sally thought they were nice. She even got to hold the baby. The next morning when Sally came back to the same spot the family was sitting in they were gone! They didn’t even say goodbye. Sally’s mother explained that they had to go to the African-American train car. Sally was confused. Her mother didn’t even care. Once they got to Florida Sally was very tired. Their family’s apartment was very small and she had to share a bed with Douglas. Sally starts school and she is very nervous. The nurse has to check her for lice and as it turns out…she has nits. She has to wait a couple of days before going back to school and starting fifth grade. In school Sally meets Barbara – a girl in her class, and Shelby – a girl who is in a different class. She also meets Andrea who is a sixth grader. The boy named Peter who sits behind her in class dipped her braids in ink. Sally told Andrea about him and she claimed he was a “Latin Lover,” whatever that meant. When a girl named Jackie moves in and Peter starts liking her instead of Sally, Sally gets jealous and starts to like Peter. Sally even started taking dance class and enters a contest. She is very disappointed when she doesn’t win. Sally meets a man named Mr. Zavodsky who lives in her building. He always offers her candy. Sally refuses the candy and Andrea accepts it, which upsets Sally. Sally thinks the candy is poison. Sally is Jewish and thinks Mr. Zavodsky looks just like Adolf Hitler and she starts to believe that he is actually Hitler, in disguise. Sally writes letters to Mr. Zavodsky and never sends them. She spies on him, by listening to his phone conversations on a party line. In the end, Mr. Zavodsky dies of a heart attack. Sally also finds out that her father, who just turned 42, was the same age as his two brothers had been when they died. Sally becomes worried that her father may die. Her father comes to visit all the time and tells Sally that he won’t die. At the end of the book, she kisses Peter at their teacher’s wedding. It’s been a heck of a year for Sally!
For Karen Newman life couldn’t be any worse. She decides to never get married. Just look at her teacher Mrs. Singer. Last year she was Miss Pace and everyone loved her. Over the summer she ended up getting married and turning into Mrs. Singer. Karen now has her for sixth grade and she’s a witch. Life at home isn’t going great either. All Karen’s parents do is fight. They can’t stand to look at each other let alone be in the same room as each other. Karen grades the kind of days her family has and she writes down which of her parents started the fight that day. Her mother is very happy when her husband plans to move out and file for divorce. Karen tries to do anything she can to get her parents back together. Nothing works. At her father’s apartment Karen meets a girl named Valerie and they become pretty good friends. Valerie’s parents are also divorced and she claims to know a lot about it. But back at home Karen’s six year old sister Amy can’t even go to sleep at night. Karen’s fourteen year old brother is also taking it very hard (though he claims he’s fine). He just locks himself away in his room and tries to block out the outside world while talking to friends, lifting weights, and writing music. He later ends up having a fight with his mother in a restaurant when finding out that his father is going to move to Las Vegas so he can get a faster divorce. Their father stays home to help look for Jeff who ran out of the restaurant after the fight and he is unable to go to Las Vegas. Karen believes that it was Jeff’s intention to keep their father from leaving. The police even get involved! Jeff ends up calling the house and coming back home all on his own. Then it happens – Karen’s mother announces that they are moving. Great! Karen doesn’t want to move. Karen has got to stop this divorce. She feels alone and only has Mew, her cat, and Garfa, her grandfather, who she writes letters to. Although she does not manage to get her parents back together Karen gets a book all about divorce and realizes…it’s not the end of the world.