Ellen Parker finishes fifth grade in 1942 and spends that summer playing with kids on her block, attacking unsuspecting German refugees (they could be spies, she argues), and waiting for her young Uncle Bob to be drafted. When Bob leaves for basic training, Cutler follows Ellen through three more summers as she grows and changes from a tomboy into a young lady. Ellen befriends Lisa-Lotte, the German Jew she had thought was a spy, learns about sex (doesn't believe a word of it), develops breasts. When Uncle Bob returns from Europe, he has also changed. But unlike Ellen's, his is an unnatural transformation caused by the war: from youthful and carefree to morbid and vacant. Still, Ellen is convinced Uncle Bob will recover just as she recovered from her own difficult time. Unfortunately for the story, Ellen is a peevish character, and the people around her are two-dimensional. Especially annoying is her mother, who was married right out of high school, constantly urges Ellen to ""fit in,"" and, as late as 1942, doesn't realize that Hitler is persecuting Jews. Cutler's (Darcy and Gran Don't Like Babies, 1993, etc.) four summers idea is also ill-conceived: Inconclusive events separated by long periods of time result in a disjointed narrative rather than a purposeful whole. Ellen the annoying little girl becomes Ellen the platitudinous teenage sap. So much for happy endings.