The reader is first introduced to Winnie Foster when she is age ten. At the time of introduction, Winnie is all by herself talking to a frog or toad. She is not happy, and Winnie proceeds to explain to the amphibian her reasons. In a nut shell, Winnie feels like her parents are hovering over her every move. Some people might like that, and appreciate a set of doting parents that are always around, but to Winnie it feels like her family is suffocating her. It makes sense for the age, too. At ten years old, Winnie is at the age when many kids start searching for a bit more freedom and independence. A 10-11 year old is entering sixth grade, which seems to be the dreaded junior high years for many parents. So her general miserable attitude at the beginning of the book is probably a combination of her wanting more independence and her parents attempting to stifle much of that. Winnie's own words describe it this way:
"See?" said Winnie to the toad. "That's just what I mean. It's like that every minute. If I had a sister or a brother, there'd be someone else for them to watch. But, as it is, there's only me. I'm tired of being looked at all the time. I want to be by myself for a change […] I'm not exactly sure what I'd do, you know, but something interesting—something that's all mine. Something that would make some kind of difference in the world."