In 1934, thirteen-year-old Marya and her younger brother, Georgi, set out alone on a long and arduous journey into Siberia to find their mother after she and their father are exiled for opposing Stalin.
In 1913 Russia, twelve-year-old Katya eagerly anticipates leaving her St. Petersburg home, though not her older cousin Misha, to join her mother, a lady in waiting in the household of Tsar Nicholas II, but the ensuing years bring world war, revolution, and undreamed of changes to her life.
Left an orphan after the influenza epidemic in British East Africa in 1918, thirteen-year-old Rachel is tricked into assuming a deceased neighbor's identity to travel to England, where her only dream is to return to Africa and rebuild her parents' mission hospital.
In order to save her baby sister, fourteen-year-old Chu Ju leaves her rural home in modern China and earns food and shelter by working on a sampan, tending silk worms, and planting rice seedlings, while wondering if she will ever see her family again.
Even though he is the runt of the litter from her father's prize sled-racing dog, ten-year-old Rachel plans to train her puppy to become a champion racer and determines to track him down when he mysteriously disappears.
In Ireland in the Middle Ages, young Brother Cuthbert, known for making mistakes and giving up easily, is chosen through a miscommunication to serve as scribe for an illuminated manuscript of the Nativity story, through which the Abbot hopes to make the monastery famous.
In 1919, independent-minded fifteen-year-old Rosalind lives in India with her English parents, and when they fear she has fallen in with some rebellious types who believe in Indian self-government, she is sent "home" to London, where she has never been before and where her older brother died, to stay with her two aunts.
As Rosalind continues to straddle the proper English world of her family and the culture of 1920s India where they live, her support of Gandhi and his followers in opposing British rule grows and she considers trying to carry the rebels' message to Edward, Prince of Wales, during his visit.
After their mother dies of typhoid, Verna and her younger sister Carlie move with their father, a psychiatrist, and stern Aunt Maude to an asylum for the mentally ill in early-twentieth-century Michigan, where new ideas in the treatment of mental illness are being proposed, but old prejudices still hold sway.
"Yatandou lives in a Mali village with her family and neighbors. And though she is only eight years old and would much rather play with her pet goat, she must sit with the women and pound millet kernels. To grind enough millet for one day's food, the women must pound the kernels with their pounding sticks for three hours. It is hard work, especially when one is eight years old. But as they work, the women dream of a machine that can grind the millet...