The Great Depression forces a brother and sister to live with their hated cousins on a farm in North Dakota when their father loses his job.
Eleven-year-old Elinore Frey and her older sister, Phoebe, share their experiences in letters as they both adjust to new lives in the West, Elinore in California, and Phoebe on the plains of the Nebraska Territory.
During World War II, Jack, who had started getting into trouble at home, goes to work on his uncle's sheep ranch in Oregon, where he learns about responsibility, bravery, and getting along with others.
Caroline learns the meaning of freedom while struggling to maintain the family cotton plantation during the Civil War.
Rifle barrels pointed at the family as they stepped into the open. Tilly cowered behind her father. "We're headed for St. Augustine," Kwaku explained. The men lowered their guns. "Where are you from?" one of them asked. "Are you runaways?" "Please let us go on our way," Catbird begged. "Get in the wagon," the man said. "These men are armed," Kwaku said quietly. "We must do as we are told." When everyone was aboard, the wagon rumbled on down the road. They were headed away from St. Augustine and their chance for freedom.
When Kioni is captured and taken aboard a pirate ship, he finds adventures on new shores.
Thirteen-year-old Cotton becomes responsible for seeing his family safely across country to Oregon where they will join his father.