Mrs. Olinski notices that Nadia Diamondstein barely speaks during the first weeks of the new academic year at Epiphany Middle School. The pretty, red-haired student is a watcher, "cautious about showing [her]self." Finally, one day in mid-October, Nadia comes into the classroom and gifts her teacher with a radiant smile. Nadia repeats this greeting "every morning thereafter." Mrs. Olinski recognizes that Nadia Diamondstein is "a star."
Nadia Tells of Turtle Love
During the summer before her sixth-grade year, Nadia's parents go through a divorce, and Nadia must move with her mother from Florida to upstate New York. As a part of the divorce settlement, Nadia is required to spend a month of her summer vacation with her father back in their old neighborhood. As she has been given no say about any of these arrangements, the young girl is understandably bitter when she arrives at her father's apartment with her dog, Ginger. Nadia's father, Allan Diamondstein, is an extremely nervous individual who tends to "hover," making the entire situation singularly uncomfortable.
Nadia's Grandpa, Izzy Diamondstein, who lives nearby in Florida's Century Village, has just gotten married to a woman named Margaret Draper. Nadia has received a "full report" about the wedding from Noah Gershom, whose father, Dr. Gershom, is Nadia's mother's employer in New York. During Nadia's stay, Grandpa Izzy calls every day after her father leaves for work. Her grandfather invites her to visit Century Village, but Nadia declines. Finally, after a very unsatisfactory attempt to connect with her old friends in the neighborhood, Nadia agrees to visit her grandpa, whose new wife's grandson, Ethan Potter, has also arrived to stay for a while.
The beaches of Florida are inhabited by sea turtles. "Turtle patrols" guard the area from May through October to make sure that the turtles' nests are protected from danger. Margaret Draper Diamondstein is an avid environmentalist, and she and her new husband, Izzy, are "permitted volunteers...licensed to move a [turtle] nest or dig out a nest after the eggs [have] hatched." Grandpa Izzy asks Nadia if she would like to extend her visit so that she can see a turtle nest being dug out. Although Nadia would rather not, things are decided for her as usual, and before she knows it, everything is arranged.
Nadia's dad has tickets for The Phantom of the Opera. He finds an extra ticket for Ethan, whom he had not accounted for when he had originally purchased the seats. Ethan chivalrously insists on taking the single seat, and he clearly has a wonderful time watching the show. At the end of the performance, Nadia's dad asks Margaret if he can be included in their turtle-watching activities, and Nadia is resentful. Her father has little enough time to spend with his daughter during her visitation period as it is. Now he seems to be more interested in Margaret's activities than in her.
The situation comes to a head when Nadia learns from Ethan that Dr. Gershom, her mother's employer, is the Potter family's dentist. Margaret Draper had arranged for Nadia's mother to get a job interview with him. Nadia concludes that it is Margaret who has made it possible for her mother to leave her father, and has by association caused her, Nadia, to be uprooted from her home in Florida, all without her knowledge. Furious, Nadia takes her ire out on her father, who belatedly perceives that his daughter feels confused and neglected. Trying to make amends, he arranges to take some time off work and makes plans to take Nadia to Disney World.
The night before their planned outing, Grandpa Izzy calls in a state of great concern. A northeaster has hit the coast. The turtle hatchlings...
(This entire section contains 816 words.)
will have to be moved to safety, or they will die. Knowing that if he and Nadia go out to help Grandpa they will miss their trip to Disney World, Nadia's dad says that he and his daughter have already made plans.
Nadia has recently done a report about turtles and understands that without help, the hatchlings are indeed doomed. She sits down with her father and explains to him the direness of the situation. His genuine concern and attention to what she is saying enables her to see her whole familial situation in an entirely different light. Nadia and her father come to the realization that, like the turtles, "the storm in [their] private lives [has] picked [them] up and put [them] out of place." To get through the difficult times, they will on occasion "need a lift."
Using the predicament of the turtles as a metaphor for their own lives, Nadia and her father resolve to be more understanding of each other and to give each other "a lift" when needed. Needless to say, the trip to Disney World is put on hold, and father and daughter rush to the aid of the turtles.