An author accustomed to dealing with serious topics (You Shouldn't Have to Say Good-bye, 1982) takes up the subject of children abandoned by their parents. When their mother, tired of raising them alone, runs off to become a dancer, Mary Belle, 11, takes over caring for their home in the rural South and little sister Callie while older brother Ariel supports them with his service station job. Their main concern is avoiding foster care, which was forced on them once before, when their mother broke down after their father left. Therefore, they are dismayed when elderly black neighbor Amarius and his grand-niece Miss Dearly Aikens notice their situation and want to help. It takes Callie's tragic illness to force Mary Belle to come to terms with her mother's actions and her own need to rely on the kindness of caring friends. Mary Belle's narration, while poignant and truly felt, moves slowly and has a predictable outcome. Unfortunately, her unique voice doesn't compensate for the melodramatic plot or the slight characterizations.