Faced with losing their school due to lack of sufficient students, the residents of the island town of Bethsaida, Maine, concoct the idea of taking in foster children to boost their school-age population. The family of Tess Brooks has agreed to foster thirteen-year-old Aaron, who was separated from his alcoholic mother at the age of five. His grandmother raised him for six years, but then she died, leaving him to foster care. In the last two years, he's been in two different homes. Tess is worried he won't like them or that they won't like him, and her days of living on the island will be over.
Her interactions with trumpet-playing Aaron change her focus. She realizes that children like Aaron have lost far more than she would if she had to move to the mainland. Instead of wanting him to stay for the sake of her home and school, she begins to want to help him find the life he wants, even if it is with his mother or a different foster family.
Cynthia Lord has written Tess's voice so clearly, we readily believe her change of heart and mind over the two months the story covers. We see her superstitious mind become more rational, feel her anxiety turn into compassion.