5,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia during a terrible drought, Jomar and Zefa's father must send his children away to the city of Ur because he can no longer feed them. At fourteen, Jomar is old enough to apprentice with Sidah, a master goldsmith for the temple of the moongod, but there is no place for Zefa in Sidah's household. Zefa, a talented but untrained musician, is forced to play her music and sing for alms on the streets of Ur.
As much as life has irrevocably changed since the death of his father, much has stayed the same for Cam. He's always had a great deal of responsibility around the house, but the burden is heavier now in combination with the load of grief he's been carrying. After the man who was driving the truck that killed his father turns up at the end of the driveway, Cam feels pressure to keep his family safe as well. He starts to see the man everywhere: at his work, in stores, at his sister's school. Cam needs to know what the man wants from his family, and he starts following his father's killer in search of answers.
Liza, determined to prove that her mother's boyfriend is no good, starts researching the oil company he works for. Liza discovers a lawsuit against the company for compensation that is long overdue to Guatemalan farmers. She starts a group at school called GRRR! (Girls for Renewable Resources, Really!) and launches an attack on Argenta Oil. As her activism activities increase, her objections to her mother's boyfriend become political. She is learning to separate the personal from the political, but when her mother discovers her plans for a demonstration outside the Argenta Oil head office, the two collide in ways Liza least suspected.
Tall-Shadow, a young Navajo boy, faces adverse dangers when he confronts the Big Cat, a lion who is feared by the tribe. Tall Shadow also struggles with his desire to adopt the white man's ways and his father's wish to maintain their culture.
After Daniel Purcell's mother dies in childbirth, his father soon brings home a young woman, named Katherine, as his new wife.
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.
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.