Fifth grade wasn't what Julia Gillian had expected — her whole life seemed to be falling apart!

Everyone loves Mrs. K., the cafeteria lunch lady, but just a month after school starts, she breaks her ankle, and has to stay off her feet at home. So they have to have an interim lunch monitor, and Mr. Wintz is nothing like Mrs. K. 

First of all, he's a man, and schools aren't supposed to have lunch men.  Second of all, he has lots more rules than Mrs. K. did. Rules about not sharing lunches, rules about eating your vegetables, rules about parents being called if you didn't obey the rules. Third of all, he eats too many baby carrots. He always has a bag of baby carrots in his hand to munch on. And no one likes him — no one.  

And then there's Bonwit Teller, Julia Gillian's best friend. Suddenly, he doesn't seem to want to be her best friend. He doesn't talk to her on their way home from school, and he doesn't want to spend time together over the weekend, the way they always did. Even his lunch is different. Bonwit has always had faces drawn on his lunch sack because his mother's an artist. But one day, he comes to school without a face on his lunch sack — because he made his own lunch! 

It's babyish to have your parents make your lunch, he says. And Julia Gillian does something she's almost never done — she lies to her best friend. She tells Bonwit she made her own lunch, too. Now there are two things between them — Bonwit not wanting to spend time with Julia Gillian, and Julia Gillian lying to Bonwit.

But the worst thing of all is about her trumpet. She's wanted to play the trumpet for years, and she's finally in fifth grade, so she and Bonwit can take trumpet lessons. They learn how to clean their trumpets, they learn how to  position their mouths on the mouthpiece, and finally, Mr. Mixler says "Now, play!" Every trumpet seems to make a different sound, but Julia Gillian can't tell which one is hers. She goes home after school, gets out her trumpet, adjusts her mouth, and blows. Nothing happens. She tries again. Nothing. Not one bit of noise of any kind. How can she grow up to be a famous jazz trumpeter if she can't make any sound at all?

Fifth grade isn't turning out to be any fun at all!