Main cast of characters: Liberty Justice Jones, recently expelled from high school; draft horse Quiller, and Rudy García, young hobo. Time and place: Depression-era Texas. Story: Liberty’s college fund has gone to pay debts on her family’s tree farm, but the Joneses still owe the bank more money. She learns of a Christmas tree contest with a $500 prize, and steals the town’s Christmas tree that her grandfather planted decades earlier. With Rudy and Quiller’s help, she attempts to get the tree to Austin in time to win the contest, get money for the farm, and maybe have enough left to pay for college.
Saving the family farm is a familiar children’s book plot, but Platt gives the story several interesting twists. Liberty excelled in science class but is frustrated by college science scholarships always being awarded to boys. Rudy García may be riding the rails and despised as a “chili eater” by many Anglos, but his family has lived in Texas longer than most whites. Liberty discovers that her prejudices against rich and powerful people aren’t necessarily justified. Local color, enjoyable characters, and steeping the reader in period detail all result in an engrossing young adult novel.