Autumn 1941. Four-year-old Adeline is intelligent and smart, receiving an award from her kindergarten teacher (Mother Agnes) on the first week of school. Her Aunt Baba treasures Adeline’s award by placing it in her special safe-deposit box. Adeline is close to her Aunt Baba, asking her about her deceased mother. Aunt Baba isn’t willing to share what she knows but Adeline learns that her mother died from a fever two weeks after she was born.
Chapter 2: A Tianjin Family
The whole family (seven children, her Father and Niang, her Grandfather Ye Ye, Grandmother Nai Nai and Aunt Baba (older sister of her Father) lived in a big house in the French Concession of Tianjin (city port on the north-east coast of china)
Chapter 3: Nai Nai’s Bound Feet
Adeline is mystified at her Grandmother Nai Nai and her bound feet. Adeline learns that having your feet bound wasn’t good and luckily, the custom had changed and small feet were no longer considered an important part of being feminine and beautiful. Adeline gladly shares the news of her achievement, but her siblings aren’t happy and are probably jealous of her, thinking it’s not possible. Because of the medal, her father singles her out, which had never happened before. Whatever someone in the family doesn’t want to do, they force it on Adeline to do it in the end.
Chapter 4: Life in Tianjin
Winter, early 1942. When Adeline started kindergarten at St Joseph’s French Convent School, her Big Sister was already in fifth grade. Complaining about having to walk Adeline to and from school, Grandmother Nai Nai finally told Ah Mao, the rickshaw-puller, to take them to and from school. Adeline loved everything about school. It was a place where they were all equals and a place where unlike her own siblings, nobody looked down on her. Finally, she felt like belonged. A year after Father, Niang and Fourth Brother had been gone, there was a heatwave on. Nai Nai decided to soak her feet, but unfortunately, she died of a massive stroke. A grand funeral was held for her.
Chapter 5: Arrival in Shanghai
Adeline, Big Sister and Big Brother are taken to the railroad station to meet their father. Together, the four went to the house in Shanghai. Father, Niang and Fourth Brother had been living there for one and a half years. The children are told that they are to live on the second floor (three brothers in one room, Adeline and Aunt Baba in another and Ye Ye and Big Sister in separate rooms.) The others, Father, Niang and their stepsiblings would live on the first floor in individual rooms showing prejudice against the children, Aunt Baba and Ye Ye.
Chapter 6: First Day At School
At Shanghai, Adeline starts first grade at a new school called Sacred Heart, her Big Sister goes to Aurora Middle School and her brothers goes to St John’s Academy. After school, Adeline is forgotten about so she tries to find her way home by herself. Of course, she doesn’t know where she lives, so she gets lost. Luckily a lady from a restaurant spots her and Adeline calls her father to pick her up. Her father tells Adeline that in future she needs to use a map.
Chapter 7: Family Reunion
Last Sunday of October. Ye Ye, Aunt Baba, Third Brother and Little Sister arrive at Shanghai. Little Sister hadn’t seen her mother for one and a half years so she doesn’t remember her. When Little Sister threw a tantrum and wouldn’t go to her mother, Niang started beating her deliberately and viciously. Adeline finally speaks out (to stop beating her) when none of the other adults did so. After that, the children realized that because Nai Nai was dead, Niang was now the one in charge.
Chapter 8: Tram Fare
The children’s schools were a fair distance away and the number 8 tram ran directly from door to door. But the children were being taught an austerity programme to teach them about the ‘value of money’, so they weren’t given any pocket money, meaning that they couldn’t take...