As her thirteenth birthday approaches, JoEllen decides to bring together her two separate lives--one as Joey, who enjoys weekends with her father and other relatives on a farm, and another as Ellen, who lives with her mother in a Cincinnati apartment near her school and friends.
Bird, an artistic young African American boy, expresses himself through drawing as he struggles to understand his older brother's drug addiction and death, while a family friend, Uncle Son, provides guidance and understanding.
In a remote area of Alaska, twelve-year-old Willow helps her father with their sled dogs when she is not at school, wishing she were more popular, all the while unaware that the animals surrounding her carry the spirits of dead ancestors and friends who care for her.
In 1968, with the Vietnam War raging, thirteen-year-old Lyza inherits a project from her deceased grandfather, who had been using his knowledge of maps and the geography of Lyza's New Jersey hometown to locate the lost treasure of Captain Kidd.
A thirteen-year-old African American boy chronicles what happens to his family when his father, who temporarily left, returns home and they all must deal with their feelings of anger, hope, abandonment, and fear.