The Barnes children, Susan, Joey and Tom, are spending the summer of 1913 in Kansas with their grandmother while their father, a baseball player, tours with his team. When Joey ""accidentally"" kills a mother bluejay with his slingshot, the children take on the job of raising the four babies despite Grandma's admonition not to ""get too fond of 'em, because they won't live."" Beaky Callahan, the local juvenile delinquent and bird authority, concurs, and in fact only one bird survives the summer. The deaths of the others are rather graphically presented both in words and in Mr. Berson's illustrations. There's plenty to be learned about bluejays, and the cruelty of nature (and often, of children) is not minimized. This might be a good deterrent to potential wild-bird-raisers, and a lot of eight year-old Susan's feelings are valid and recognizable. As Beaky Callahan points out, ""jaybirds like corn""; both birds and corn are here but not beyond the satiation point.