(Back cover) Hildy Corrigan felt like the first day of school would never come! Ever since their family had arrived in California, her hopes and dreams were all focused on the Lone River Grammar School. If Hildy proves herself to be an excellent student, her goal of attending college to become a teacher and to someday get her "forever home" has a chance of becoming a reality. Being the oldest child of poor parents in the Great Depression, it is Hildy's only chance.
But the odds against her are very high. Good grades are one thing, but college also requires money and even with her part-time job after school, she'll never earn enough. When a cash prize is offered for the top academic and civic-minded seventh-grader, Hildy's determination to win it is met by a school administration firmly set against her. She's an unwelcomed outsider, an "Okie," and Hildy and her cousin Ruby are in for big problems at school.