Winnie Barringer can’t stop staring out the window at her best friend Iggie’s house. Iggie and her family moved to Tokyo a week ago, and Winnie feels sad and lost without Iggie there to spend summer vacation with. Winnie’s mother, fed up with Winnie’s moping, makes her get dressed and sends her outside to play. Winnie rides her bike down the street to Iggie’s old house, hoping to catch a glimpse of the family who’s supposed to be moving in soon. She leaves her bike on the sidewalk and walks around the house, remembering all the good times she had there.
Suddenly, a station wagon pulls up. Winnie dives into a bush and sees her new neighbors for the first time. Iggie had told her she was in for a surprise, and Iggie was right. The new neighbors are Black, and everyone else in the neighborhood is White! Winnie rages home to tell her mom, but someone has already called her with the news. Winnie is eager to welcome the new, intriguing neighbors, but Winnie’s mom is not enthusiastic.
The town has a typical 1970s reaction. Dorothy Landon, the block’s busybody, starts a petition asking the Garbers to move. Next, she plants a threatening sign in the Garbers’ yard. Winnie bends over backward trying to make the Garber family feel welcome, but even the children know what is going on between the adults.
Despite a few missteps, Winnie becomes fast friends with Tina, Glenn, and Herbie. She takes them to the park to play baseball and picnic, and she even shows them Iggie’s hidden treehouse. Unfortunately, the kids are savvy to the growing hostility. Wanting to prove that she isn’t like the rest of the town, Winnie makes her own petition and takes it to the pool.
There, her old swim instructor wisely counsels her, and Winnie knows she isn’t the only one who feels strongly about helping the Garbers stay.
Mrs. Landon becomes truly nasty in her crusade when she puts her house up for sale and invites her real estate agent to help all the people on the block sell their homes. She visits the Barringers to persuade them to move, too, and Mr. Barringer finally sees how ridiculous the situation has become. Despite their initial fear at the prejudice they are facing, the Garbers decide to stay as well.
Winnie continues to be the Garbers’ only advocate on the block. She realizes just how much the Garbers are like any other family, and Winnie excitedly tells her parents they even use the same brand of peanut butter. The story concludes with Winnie writing her first letter to Iggie in Tokyo, telling her about everything that happened that week.
This young adult novel does a very accurate job of portraying the racial tension felt in small towns all over America when neighborhoods first became integrated. It also shows how much change relies on the optimism and willingness of children to learn to adapt to surface differences.