Once upon a time in America, half the people lost every dime they ever had. Then the coming of the Dust Bowl hit as hard as a prairie tornado. Reuben, just completing second grade in Ambler, Oklahoma, has grown up knowing the richness of farm life. Now his father, desperate to make ends meet, takes a job as a wingwalker in a traveling county fair. Uprooted from the life he's loved and afraid of his own shadow, Reuben needs a full measure of love and courage to get by.
During the Depression, Reuben and his out-of-work parents move from Oklahoma to Minnesota, where his father gets a job as a carnival wingwalker and Reuben has a chance to overcome his terror of flying.