Most boys can't wait for their tenth birthday--Palmer is dreading his. In Palmer's town, ten-year-old boys become wringers, who break the necks of wounded pigeons at the town's annual Pigeon Day shoot. Spinelli's taut, gripping tale of a good-hearted boy in a violent town gives the fear of growing up a whole new meaning.
For Palmer, there are perks to being ten: acceptance by neighborhood bullies Beans, Mutto, and Henry, getting a nickname (Snots!), and showing off his bruise from the Treatment (one punch in the arm for every year of his life). But there is one perk Palmer dreads: becoming a wringer. His small town hosts the annual Pigeon Day shoot, where eager ten-year-old boys wring the necks of wounded birds. Palmer secretly finds the entire ritual repellent.
To make matters worse, like a guilty conscience a stray pigeon comes tapping at his window one day, takes up residence in his closet, and won't leave. In a town that murders pigeons, how can he keep it secret ... and safe? Palmer asks his friend, Dorothy, for help, but she unknowingly sets the bird free in a place where it is captured, thus directing the tale to its unexpected climax.