Grace Mary Wordsworth is eight. In fact, today is her eighth birthday. But, until today, Grace could not remember a single day, not even a single moment in her whole life, when she had been happy.
Surely, you would say, there must have been times, even once or twice when Grace was a tiny baby girl, that she smiled and gurgled and kicked her little feet like other babies do. Most babies seem to laugh and kick and gurgle and smile at anyone who cares to look over the edge of their stroller or cot. Perhaps they are just happy and confident from the beginning because they are surrounded by a loving family and there is enough food to go around for everyone.
But Grace Mary Wordsworth had never had a loving family. Her mother, well I’ll tell you more about her mother in a moment, but let’s just say here that she was really horrible to Grace.
‘Did Grace have a father?’ I hear you ask. Wellll, yeesss, sort of. Mr Marvin Wordsworth, who was almost skin and bone, had to work long hours at hard manual work because, like many people even in this day and age, he could not read or write properly.
Grace’s mother and father owned a very small farm, but the soil was so poor and the weather always so dry it was impossible for them to make enough money to live from their land. So, Mr Wordsworth had to leave the house early every morning of the week and ride many kilometres on his bicycle to work for other farmers. He left before Grace was awake and most nights didn’t come back until Grace was asleep. Even when he saw Grace he looked at her as though she was a stranger in his house and he never spoke to her or smiled at her. Still, he was better towards Grace than her mother was.
Grace thought she must have other relatives but she had never seen any of them and she had never heard her mother or father talk about them. On top of this all of their neighbours were a long way away and Grace had no idea which direction she would have to walk to find them and even then whether or not there would be other children to play with.
Grace’s Mother Munch continually forces Grace to make food for her and never stops telling Grace that she is GOOD-FOR-NOTHING!
Then everything changes!
On the day of her eighth birthday Grace discovers a mysterious box in a shed at the back of the house. She is looking at a book from the box when Mother Munch frightens her and Grace falls into the box and disappears.
This is the start of a series of adventures during which she meets other girls who are also having their eighth birthdays.
There are frightening dramas involving an angry woman in England, and a typhoon in China but most of all, Grace learns what she wants to do with her life.