Aimed at second-grade-level readers of 11 to 15, this is the first-person story of Chiefie, orphaned at six and sent off to a school where the superintendent, Mr. Hatfield, soon gets a ""pick"" at him. ""And when he gets a pick at somebody, he never lets up."" And so Chiefie is persecuted all through school, innocently landing himself in more and more trouble until he's sent to a farm for real bad kids, where he's almost killed by the bigger boys. When he returns to the school his one friend, Maggie, has left. But he finally graduates and takes a job at a gas station, only to be cheated of his pay by his old landlady, a friend of Mr. Hatfield. Hate for these two follows soldier Chiefie through the war in the Pacific, but when it's over he returns to find Mr. Hatfield gone (forced to resign for beating a student), the old lady dying. . . and Maggie, as a nurse, there to bring something other than hate to his life. Do poor readers need romantic, unrealistic endings? Yes or no, they can easily relate to Chiefie's troubles and the sequence of his responses.