In 1963, Pearl, an eleven-year-old black girl in Fairfax, Virginia, learns about the real nature of friendship from the popular but untrustworthy Lenore, and Artemesia, a poor girl who moves into the neighborhood for a brief time.
Simon and Edward are boyhood friends, but they are also slave and master. When Simon runs away and joins the black soldiers in the Union Army, Edward and his family endure the siege of Petersburg from the opposite side.
Frustrated at her seeming lack of talent for anything, a young Taiwanese American girl sets out to apply the lessons of the Chinese Year of the Dog, those of making best friends and finding oneself, to her own life.
When Toby finally decides to join the middle school basketball team, he does not anticipate the changes that will occur in his relationship with his best friend JJ, who is the team's star player, as well as in other areas of his life.
Middle-school readers will empathize with aptly named Calvin Schwa as he tries to raise his own visibility while discovering why his mother disappeared. Amusing incidents and solid characterization carry this story to its poignant conclusion.