Birdie Fried is 12 in 1917 when her father dies, leaving her mother with six children to provide for in the mill town of Steelton, Pa. The Frieds are Russian-Jewish immigrants; Mr. Fried was about to open a small grocery when he died. Desperate to avoid going back to N.Y.C.'s roach-infested tenements, Birdie and her sibs pitch in to do everything they can to help their mother, who knows very little English, manage the store. Its eventual success is due in large part to Birdie, who doesn't allow prejudice to prevent her from advertising for customers in the poor black neighborhood her family has been warned to avoid. Based in part on the author's family history, this affecting novel shows how immigrant families ventured everything they had in the days before social safety nets. Birdie's strong-willed, compassionate mother is especially memorable, as are descriptions of compromises between the family's Orthodox beliefs and the exigencies of commerce. Anti-Semitic and black prejudices of the period are dealt with frankly. Some dialogue in Hebrew, Yiddish (usually translated), and dialectical English. Unusually good historical fiction.