Only in Chances and Changes
- Margaret: The named protagonist who travels back to the past with an old-fashioned pin she finds on the of Camp Gowonagin's now-rotting wooden Dining Hall steps. She hates making decisions, to the point she is nicknamed "Margaret Maybe" by her friend Bea. She lives with her grandmother at the ranger station (her parents died when she was young). She plays the flute (and both loves it and is very skilled at playing) and can swim well. She is taken back in time with an old-fashioned pin brooch.
- Gem: Margaret's grandmother, a wildlife ranger for the Seneca Forest Preserve. Gem is short for GM, grandmother. She has been raising Margaret since her parents died.
- Beatriz "Bea" DiMichael: Margaret's best friend. She is home schooled, while Margaret attends public school. Her family owns a farm, and she lives close enough that she and Margaret spend summers and long spans of time together.
- Aurora: A horse on Bea's farm who has a foal at the start of the summer.
- Moon Shadow: Aurora's foal.
- Barney: Margaret's dog.
- Mischa: A forestry student doing a summer internship. Margaret initially feels like he has swooped in and taken over things she did without asking her. He calls her 'Margaret Jo" which she dislikes.
- Mr. Salvo: Margaret's orchestra teacher. He nominates Margaret for a scholarship to a summer music camp.
Margaret and Bea are trying to find a name for the foal that Aurora, a horse at the DiMichael farm, is due with. Margaret is about to choose the name, but hesitates. Bea teasingly calls her "Margaret Maybe" and that she has trouble making choices. Margaret explains that naming a foal is important as the horse will have its name its whole life. Bea says that this was as bad as when Margaret couldn't pick an instrument--while she eventually settled on the flute, she had to try every instrument first. Bea reminds Margaret that the foal is due any minute, prints a copy of the name list, and says they they're going to have the best summer ever. Margaret returns home with her dog, Barney; since she goes to public school and Bea is home schooled, they look forward to their summers together of sleepovers, swimming in the lake, and this year which will include helping raise a foal.
As Margaret returns home, she finds a letter on her music stand for Young Artists' Summer Music Camp. As she reads the letter, Gem finds her, and Margaret explains that she's been offered a scholarship to a summer music camp that starts next week. Her orchestra teacher, Mr. Salvo, nominated her and she has been rewarded for a solo she did at the last concert (a solo she had been unsure of doing). Margaret is unsure of going to the music camp, as she and Bea have so many summer plans. Gem says this is no time for maybes, as an opportunity like music camp doesn't come along every day. Margaret thinks that neither does a chance to raise a foal.
Margaret tosses and turns all night. Bea calls her before seven a.m. to tell her to come over right away, and when she and Barney arrive, Bea escorts them to the barn to see Gem (who went to help early in the morning) and Aurora and the newly born foal. They name the foal Moon Shadow as it is a dark black foal. Bea says they pondered over a list for months and now she and Margaret can spend every day watching them grow. Gem and Margaret exchange looks and Margaret says she might not be there and explains about the music camp--including that it is a sleep away camp and eight weeks. Bea is dismayed that the whole summer would be gone and that Margaret can't go. Gem says she'll be there and the new intern, Mischa, will be there to help. That stings Margaret as since Mischa came he's been taking over lots of things. Gem continues that it's time for Margaret to try something new and that music camp is a great opportunity for her and not forever. Bea laments that it's right now and tells Margaret she'd miss Moon Shadow's first two months, home, swimming, and everything--and that she would be missed. Margaret says she hasn't decided yet if she will go to summer camp.
Gem invites Bea over for homemade waffles, but Bea says she's not hungry. Over breakfast, Margaret is no closer to a decision when Barney barks, greeting Mischa. Mischa scratches his ears--the two have gotten along since they met--and, when Mischa calls Margaret "Margaret Jo," she says she needs to take a walk to clear her head. Mischa offers to help and Margaret is annoyed but shakes her head. When she calls Barney, he does not come with her, so she walks the woods alone. Usually she asks Gem or Bea for advice, but this time they are the problem. Whatever choice she makes, she is sure she will disappoint one of them.
Margaret finds some rotting wooden steps in the woods that lead nowhere. She checks her watch to see the time and then spots jewelry--a gold pin with one white and three red stones. As she rubs the dirt from the white stone, she is suddenly transported to Camp Gowonagin. Before she can figure out what's going on, she hears someone say hi and turns to see Molly, who assumes she's a new camper. Molly introduces herself and says that camp can be overwhelming for new campers, but that she'll love it. She says she'll introduce Margaret to Linda, and goes into the dining hall to get her. Margaret wonders if the pin will return her home. She makes an unusual for her instant decision, rubs the pin, and is returned to the present. Thinking that she liked Molly's friendly nature, she decides this is a chance to go somewhere new and have a new experience, so she rubs the pin again and is retransported back. She turns around to see Molly with Linda, and Molly introduces her as Margaret, like Princess Margaret. Linda brings up Margaret Truman, the new president's daughter. Margaret quickly realizes that she is not just in a new place but a new time, and susses out by remembering her American History that she is in 1945.
Linda says that Molly must be glad that her father is already home. Molly has a funny look before she asks Margaret about herself; she and Linda are impressed by where Margaret lives and that she must be a camp expert. Margaret states that she's never been to camp before, and Molly assures her that she can stay in Tent Ten with them. She offers to move in her trunk and, when Margaret starts to say she doesn't have one, they decide to lend her clothes and find things in the Lost and Found. As they're walking to the Lost and Found, Molly's dad pulls up, as Molly left her pillow in the car and he is returning it. Linda introduces Margaret, and Dad says that he hopes she has fun and that camp is a good break from war. With mock doctor's orders he says to have as much fun as possible and (then seriously) to watch out for each other around camp. He leaves and Linda says that Molly's dad is the nicest dad in the world next to hers. Molly mentions that this just makes "something" worse, and doesn't explain.
Soon Margaret is outfitted with a proper uniform, some spare pajamas and a rucksack, and a swimming suit; she also exchanges her modern running shoes with blue-and-white saddle shoes. Linda and Molly talk about the camp traditions and activities, including All-Wet Day, ghost stories, campfires, songs, and the overnight hike that they were not old enough to go on. Margaret is offered the change to either go on the overnight hike or stay in camp, and Margaret confesses that she's awful at making choices. Molly says that just means she looks before she leaps, which she is always being told to do, and Linda assures Margaret that whichever choice they make, they will be happy.
After this opening (and Margaret either choosing to stay at camp or go hiking), events slightly vary according to choices made.
Potential Plot Events
- Should Margaret can choose to stay at camp; the three girls will participate in camp activities (in an army like way which surprises Margaret until she remembers the time). She will be settled in the tent, head to meal, and hear about All Wet Day's activities and the Buddy Board and system.
- During a swim meet, Molly will be nervous in the water and Margaret will have the choice to ask what's wrong or wait for Molly to say. Either choice, Molly will explain that she is afraid to put her head under the water because she slipped off the dock and nearly drowned; Margaret then offers to help her swim better. Molly says there's a rush because she only has the two weeks at camp; her dad wants to go on a fishing trip with her and the end-of-trip tradition includes the first one to catch a fish jumping into the lake--and he knows about her fear. Margaret understands and mentions her choices, and then decides she will teach Molly how to swim underwater. They practice for a while and, during Early Out, Linda and Bobbie offer to stay and help; when Molly says no, Linda is surprised but leaves. Molly and Margaret practice until everyone must get out. They arrive to find everyone dressed and Molly says they should take their time to dress; Linda impatiently says they should hurry and Margaret has to choose.
- If Margaret hurries, then they will arrive on time and pass inspection; if she waits with Molly, they will take a shortcut and discover wild raspberries, which they pick and bring with them. While they will not pass inspection, the shared berries get them a reprieve on not being Tidy and True. Either way, they will then have dinner and then a campfire before bed.
- After taps, Betty leaves to have a meeting, and in the darkness Margaret feels uneasy; when Linda hears her sniffle, she shines a light, and Molly asks if she's homesick. If she convinces herself she is fine, she will settle down.
- If she explains she is homesick, Molly and Linda will confess they were exceptionally homesick their first year at camp and even cried when they confessed. They got over it by thinking of the brave soldiers. Margaret says she really wants to go home, and Molly and Linda say she should stay until breakfast and Morning Swim to help with her lessons. They tell some terrible puns and then, when Margaret asks if this is how they got over homesickness, they say their counselor showed them something wonderful. They sneak out of the cabin and Molly and Linda show Margaret wild horses. One has a foal and as it casts a shadow by the moonlight, it reminds Margaret of Moon Shadow. Linda confesses she loves horses and had never seen one before camp, and Molly says that bringing homesick campers here is a tradition. Molly says that Margaret has helped her be brave enough to jump out of the boat at Dad's fishing trip, and Linda asks if Margaret will stay or not.
- If Margaret insists on going home, she mentions her traditions with Bea and that she can't miss a minute of watching Moon Shadow growing up. Molly says Dad says that one of the worst parts of the war was missing his children growing up and they can't get those years back, hence the fishing trip tradition. Linda says Margaret is right about going home to spend time with a foal. Margaret writes a writes a note to Molly and Linda, then rubs the pin and returns home at the same time she left. She goes to Bea's farm; Bea apologizes for not coming over for waffles, and after a talk, Margaret decides if she will go to music camp or not.
- If Margaret stays in 1945 (either after self-settling her homesickness or deciding to stay after seeing the horses), the book picks up at the same place. The next morning she and Linda have a pancake eating contest and Margaret wins, eating six pancakes to Linda's five. Linda is upset at losing and Margaret feels upset for ruining the spirit of togetherness. As they prepare to morning swim for the swim meet, Linda sees Margaret's pin and asks what it is and, in her worry to not lose the pin, Margaret hides it under her mattress. Molly and Margaret buddy up again to practice swimming. After dinner, Molly and Margaret practice swimming more while Linda and Bobbie go to see a movie. Linda brings up that the movie had a thief, looking over at Margaret as she does so; Molly speaks over her and says Margaret will teach her to dive and they'll enter the dive competition at the swim meet. Linda gets upset and ends up giving them both the cold shoulder. Linda is crabby in the morning and, when Molly confronts her, Linda has an outburst that Molly is so wrapped up in Margaret that she's ignoring Linda other than to be bossy, and she is being excluded to the point she thinks Molly wants her to disappear. When Margaret tries to help, Linda turns to her and accuses her of being just as bad by coming to camp, "stealing" her best friend, besting her at pancake eating, and shoving her aside--and asks if she even knows how that feels. Margaret explains her feelings about Mischa and apologizes, but Linda says it's too late for sorry and she doesn't need to feel like a third wheel. Linda ends up ignoring them all day, and as they are getting ready for evening inspection and Margaret puts her pin away, Molly lets it be known that a gold pin from her Aunt Eleanor has gone missing. Molly asks for help to find the pin and when she asks Linda if she's seen it, Linda says she hasn't seen the pin for a while and then looks hard at Margaret. Margaret says she's never seen Molly's pin--and then realizes that Linda thinks her pin is the one that belongs to Molly. Molly goes to see if her pin fell out of her pocket and when she leaves, Linda says that she's giving Margaret a chance to come clean and hand over "Molly's" pin that she put under her pillow. Margaret tries to explain but Linda says that she stole her friend and now the pin. Margaret says she found the pin in the woods a few days ago even though this sounds weak and implausible, and Linda insists on seeing Margaret's pin to make sure--she is convinced that Margaret stole Molly's pin. Margaret, worried about what Linda touching the pin could mean (including if it would send her anywhere, including back to her own time), also thinks about going back home where she's not considered a liar and a thief. She has to decide to either stay and explain or go home right then.
- If Margaret leaves, she only tells Linda that she didn't take Molly's pin and she hopes the truth comes out, then runs off to the privacy of several trees. While she does not want to leave like this--especially if Molly might decide that she is a thief--but she does not feel she can stay where she is. She returns back to her own time, and is heartbroken to have left Molly and Linda with accusations behind her. As she returns to the cabin with her bad feelings, she realizes that she has been unfair to Mischa. When she arrives she sees Mischa trying to get burrs out of Barney's coat. Mischa asks about her walk and then says that since Barney is her dog, maybe he should let her pick the burrs out. Margaret, realizing she has been unkind to him, says no and thanks him for doing the yucky job. Mischa, surprised, asks if she can help distract Barney to get a sticky burr out. Margaret agrees, feeling lighter for forgiving Mischa for being there and hopes that Linda and Molly are forgiving her.
- If Margaret stays to explain, then before she can take the pin out Molly returns with her own pin, saying it was in the Lost and Found. Linda then apologizes for what she said to Margaret; Molly, thinking this was about her being mad, says that no, she was being bossy and not thinking about her too. They all make up and Molly invites Linda and Bobbie to come swimming during free choice--Margaret's lessons have made Molly unafraid of putting her head underwater--and that not only will she go on the fishing trip, she hopes to catch the first fish. They all go diving that evening. The next day, All-Wet Day, they participate in a bucket brigade, a water slide race (that Tent Ten wins) and the swim meet, where Linda wins second in free style, Bobbie wins first in breaststroke, and Margaret wins gold for excellence in diving. Molly wins an award for most improved swimmer. Margaret, holding her medal, has not made a decision about going to music camp, but she will let Bea know she's a dear friend.
- If they go uphill, this leads to online endings.
Regardless of the ending that is arrived at, Margaret eventually returns--or is assumed to return, later--to her own time using the pin, and returns at the exact moment she left with newfound understanding of herself. This mainly includes knowing how to make firm decisions for herself, but also includes understanding things like kindness to someone new in her life (mainly Mischa); how to handle tradition verses new opportunities; and homesickness and worry about being away from home.
- Susan Shapiro is not present anywhere, so it can be assumed that she did not return to camp like Molly and Linda.
- Many choices will lead to the same continuation of the story plot with only some side events left out.
- On the website with additional endings, the cover of A Winning Spirit is erroneously shown; the contents are correct to the book.
- Molly's father has since returned; this is Molly's second time at camp. Furthermore, Molly states that President Truman is in office now, which is strange for her as President Roosevelt had been president her whole life until recently. Margaret is quickly able to suss out that it is the summer of 1945.
- Pg. 12:
With old-fashioned politeness, [Molly] holds out her hand to shake mine and said, "How do you do? What's your name?"
"Margaret," I manage to mumble, wondering where I am.
- While there is no exact place called this, there is the Seneca Parks Forrest Nature Preserve in Ohio, which is close enough to Illinois to be Camp Gowonagin.
- As this book has several different and exceptionally complex plot events that split at the first choice and can continue with side plots, it has been separated by what happens after the first choice.