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Che;rie Witkowski is twelve, and she doesn't want to turn thirteen this year. This is the year, 1968, that everything -- absolutely everything-seems to be changing. At home her parents are expecting a new baby, her mother is fixing up the house so they can sell it and move who-knows-where, and everyone is starting to tease her about the boy next door. Meanwhile her newspaper route brings the changes of the outside world crashing in on her: the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and the disappearance of a girl from a few towns away -- a girl who more braids like Che;rie, who was about the same age as Che;rie, who could have been Che;rie.
Suddenly Che;rie is scared nothing seems safe and simple anymore. She longs for easier fears-for playing hide-and-seek in the dark, skipping school, daredevil bike tricks..She builds her own inside world: an elaborate elf house under a bush, complete with staircases, elevators, and carefully designed furniture.
But you can't keep the outside world away forever, especially when you're delivering the daily paper. And maybe Che;rie has the strength to deal with it after all, and even to change some of the bad to good...