Hazel Rye's father gave her the three acres of near-dead orange trees to end her silent sulks when he wouldn't let her pierce her ears. Someday, she figures, she'll make money selling it to some Yankee in Florida for the winter.
Making money is what matters to Hazel, as it matters to her father and her brother. It doesn't matter that she can barely read or do arithmetic and at the end of this summer will have to repeat the sixth grade. Her brain is worth $10, 000, Mr. Bartlett, her friend, tells her, because it's like new.
But then Hazel lets the Pooles live in the four-room house in the grove because 12-year-old Felder, who knows about orange trees, agrees to bring the orchard to life again. It will bring more money that way.
So begins a summer of awakening for Hazel. Though the Pooles don't have much money, they care about each other. They say grace at the table, talk about ideas , and look answers up in the dictionary when they have questions. And they keep a clean house.
She sees more clearly her mother, who escapes in nerves and to her family in Tennessee, and her father, who would keep Hazel's companionship through bribes and trickery that would deprive her of all else.
This well-crafted story of awakening and love and forgiveness features a heroine who becomes more endearing with each page. It proves once again how deserving is these authors' reputation as top children's storytellers.