* The story opens with four children playing in a high school gym with some wooden blocks.
* Joseph, Bronya, Hela and Manya are children to Monsieur Sklodovska, professor of physics and under-inspector for the school, and his wife.
* The family switched to education as estates became poorer and poorer.
* Manya's mother went to school to be a teacher and then became the director of the same school she went to, while her father followed in his father's footsteps to become a math and physics teacher.
* The Russians are in control of Poland and have required that education be conducted in Russian and eliminated the Polish from the curriculum, which has caused frustration and conflict.
* Manya's father has difficulty getting along with the Russian principal.
* Manya feels the conflict, though she doesn't understand it all.
* Manya is a bright child who teaches herself to read and is fascinated...
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