Father is the sort of grown-up who believes in Santa Claus and this is the sort of story that can be placed and set only inferentially (in northern California in the early 1900's), that can't be teased into a plot at all--you have to take both of them on faith. Between the start of one summer vacation and Christmas a year-and-a-half later (a characteristic choice of occasions), Julie grows from eight to ten, Elizabeth from seven to almost nine, and one of the nicest things about their experiences is that they're mutual or reciprocal: both of them go barefoot onto the auditorium stage in sympathy with a little girl who has no shoes; on the annual family visit to elderly Uncle Aaron it's Elizabeth who manages to kiss him, Julie who makes him laugh (by giving faces to the fatuous figures Cousin Ruby has painted). Without obtruding, Mother and Father matter, and Father finally relinquishes Santa Claus--at least until Julie and Elizabeth will grow up and have children of their own. The children of those children--those who read to relive the past--will enjoy the transition from horse-and-buggy (runaway) to auto (hard to start). The best of both worlds with no strong beginning or end but a very agreeable reality throughout.