What do you do when the person you trusted the most turns out to have a hidden past? Sam has always lived with his loving Grandpa Mack for as long as he can remember. On the eve of his eleventh birthday, Sam sneaks into the attic to hunt for presents, but instead finds a newspaper clipping with a photo of a missing child. Sam recognizes the kid in the photo -- it's of himself as a toddler. Is Mack really Sam's grandpa? Sam is troubled by strange dreams that feature the number eleven -- could they be fragments of a forgotten past?
Grandpa Mack and Sam are very close -- they share a love of woodworking and similar personality traits, and Sam just can't believe that his whole life might be a lie. Sam would like to know more, but there's one big obstacle in his way -- he has a learning disability, and cannot read very well. Enter the smart new girl at school, spunky redheaded Caroline, who agrees to help Sam research his past, under one condition: her family moves a lot, so he must promise not to become her friend. As the date of Caroline's departure looms, she and Sam come closer to solving the puzzle of Sam's past, and closer to each other as well. The answers come at the end, but it reveals not so much the what of Sam's early childhood as much as the why of the way things are now.
Giff (author of the Newbery Honor-winning Pictures of Hollis Woods) is a master at showing the way kids internalize their struggles, and how clueless the adults around them can sometimes be. Sam and Caroline's journey into friendship and family is a quiet study of an ordinary kid facing some pretty extraordinary questions about his past, and the strength that can result afterwards.