This is a book that I read as a kid, and wondered if I would still enjoy as an adult. So I got a copy of it from my public library. The story is set in the 1930s at the height of the Great Depression. The Williams family has many children, and their father has barely been able to keep the family fed and clothed. After three years of moving around and often living out of their decrepit Model T car, they find work on an apricot farm as migrant workers. Everyone has to work to earn their keep, even the kids. The orchard owner allows the family to live in a rundown two-room house.
The story is told from the viewpoint of the 12-year-old daughter Robin. She yearns for relief from the constant moving, the lack of privacy, and the worry of whether they will have enough money to survive. Her way of coping with the situation is to frequently wander away from the rest of the family, and pretend their problems don’t exist. There is a beautiful abandoned stone house near the orchard, and she manages to get inside. There she discovers an old library, which becomes her sanctuary from reality.
While the stone house and library may seem far-fetched, the part about the family struggling to survive as migrant workers is very authentic. It is the story of thousands of poor families. The author does an excellent job of portraying how poverty affects children. This book is still relevant, even fifty-five years after it was written.