When the whole fifth grade embarks on a two-week simulation of a wagon train, Dinah is paired with Olin, a boy she despises, and grouped with an unpleasantly contentious bunch of children who seem set on ruining the game with their constant bickering. As they make their way west, encountering crises both real and imagined, they discover--of course--that the whole exercise may be more meaningful than they thought. Interspersed with the third-person narration are the diary entries the students write in the voices of their pioneer characters. Gilson (Soccer Circus, 1993, etc.) starts with and sticks to a relentlessly truthful depiction of a group of disagreeable children who will be too similar to most readers' classmates for comfort. It's usually to an author's credit to render such a realistic picture of school, but in this case the authenticity--with a predictable plot to boot--is numbing.