Joey Green is a nice guy, but he doesn’t have any distinguishing characteristics. He is not popular, but no-one actively dislikes him. He plays the guitar, but only in his room at home. He likes to play it safe and avoids standing out from the crowd. Joey wants to make a mark, but he is worried he will always be second best – like Tenzing Norgay who climbed Mt Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary, or Buzz Aldrin who went to the moon with Neil Armstrong. He feels that he doesn’t have the grit it takes to make a mark.
The one place he feels free to be himself is the hill behind his house.
Marsh, a young immigrant from Serbia, is fierce and passionate. She makes her own rules. Her eclectic dress and soulful Serbian folk songs set her apart from anyone Joey has ever met. She lives in a world of her own, surrounded by objects with mystical meanings.
When Marsh builds a tree house on Joey’s hill, Joey decides to take a stand and reclaim his territory.
In the battle of wills that ensues Joey gradually learns more about Marsh and about himself. He reaches out to help Marsh reconnect with the world and in doing so is challenged to take a stand for more than the hill.
Many middle grade readers would identify with Joey’s big question, ‘What am I good at?’ He compares himself with those around and feels like he doesn’t measure up. Through his friendship with Marsh he learns to take a risk and to not be so small. He also learns to look beyond himself, because life is a team effort.
Some of the themes explored are the migrant experience, building friendships, appreciating differences, grief and loss and standing up for yourself and your friends.