This is the first book that really got me interested in older books, though at the time I purchased it at a used book store, it was only about 40 years old. Not that vintage. The book is written in an endearingly optimistic tone, almost as if it's a modern book looking back on the 1940s. Daddy leaves his money out on his newsstand for people to make their own change when he takes a break for dinner. Judy is endlessly cheerful. The Marshalls look out for their neighbors. Yet the book also deals with serious issues like prejudice and poverty.
Judy Marshall lives in New York City and her father owns an ice cream/general store. She loves to help out even though her older sister Elaine taunts her about her plumpness when she samples the goodies.
A new girl, Mayling Lee, moves into the neighborhood. Judy marvels at the fact that the girl is Chinese and instantly invites her to join The Saturday Club, a group of her friends who meet up every Saturday. Judy is also excited that Mayling owns a piano, something Judy longs to have someday. To Judy's amazement, Mayling offers to give Judy free piano lessons. Mayling is also kind enough to buy a sundae for Butch, a dirty little boy who stops by the shop every day for a free piece of candy.
At the next meeting of The Saturday Club, Judy broaches the idea of having Mayling as a member. The girls seem agreeable to the idea until club president Margaret objects. Judy resigns, and the other club members except Margaret follow suit, saying maybe they could form a new club.
Next, a young man, who turns out to be their neighbor Mrs. Kersten's nephew, moves into his aunt's apartment. He takes an interest in Elaine. Judy sees Tom at the Automat and they eat together. Judy comes up with the idea of Tom working at the ice cream parlor while the Marshalls are eating dinner. Elaine is jealous when she hears about Judy and Tom having this talk. Elaine, if he's interested in an eleven year old you shouldn't want him anyway!
Judy and Mayling visit Butch's family because the boy hasn't been seen in school or the ice cream shop in several days. They learn from Mr. Fenton that the family just had a new baby, Mr. Fenton lost the job and has a leg injury. Later on, Judy has an idea to help raise money for the family's rent. All the kids will get together and put on a show! Sounds like one of those old movies. Judy and Mayling plan to play the piano, a girl from The Saturday Club will toe dance. There will also be a harmonica player, a comedian, and a pair of African American twins from school who sing on the radio will perform. During their rehearsal, Mayling's mother notices that Judy's skill level during her performance is not up to the other children's. She gently suggests that Judy be the master of ceremonies instead. Judy is very hurt by this because her dream is to be a concert pianist, but she agrees to take the job.
The show is a hit and brings in more than enough money for rent, and some job offers for Mr. Fenton. Judy does a wonderful job as master of ceremonies and even gets a used piano out of the deal. In the end, there is a photo in the newspaper of all the kids together. Judy's mother remarks that this is how things in the United States should be, with people of all colors and from all backgrounds and religions working together. I'm sure this kind of statement wasn't popular with everyone at the time.