For a California girl like twelve-year-old Sam, small-town Ohio stinks. The air reeks of manure, she’s stuck with her aunt’s dusty, sticky-keyed upright piano instead of her baby grand back home, and the best part of her day is wearing a hair net while frosting donuts at her aunt’s bakery. Worst of all, she’s halfway across the country while her mom undergoes cancer treatment.
When the church organist unexpectedly leaves town, Sam lands her dream job as a paid, professional pianist. If she can nail the five-week church gig, Sam will have a recommendation to apply to a prestigious arts academy for seventh grade. But first she has to overcome the performance anxiety that’s plagued her for years.
After Sam bombs her first church service, she’s ready to give up when she meets Riley, a girl who writes poetry at the donut shop. Sam’s desperate for a friend—especially a tadpole-catching, treehouse-dwelling friend like Riley whose sleepy mama might have an illness of her own. Together, through poetry, music, and a crazy cow escapade, the girls hold each other up. But when Sam finally returns home for the audition, she must face the gravity of her mother’s illness, claim the grit and perseverance she’s gained in Ohio, and fight for her musical dreams.