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In 1936, during the Great Depression, Flavia Mills, a sprightly eight-year-old girl nicknamed the "Tenth Avenue Angel," lives with her mother Helen, father Joseph and her aunt, Susan Bratten, in a tenement apartment in Manhattan. Flavia skates around her neighborhood on only one roller-skate, and although her father is unemployed and her family has little money, she hopes that someday she will be able to buy a new pair. One of Flavia's closest friends is Blind Mac, a blind newspaper vendor who knows the streets and often shares his wisdom with Flavia. When Flavia learns that Steve Abutt, Susan's sweetheart, is returning to New York after an absence of more than a year, she can hardly contain her excitement. Flavia adores Steve but has been kept ignorant of the fact that he has been serving time in jail for his brief association with gangsters. Instead, Flavia has been told that Steve has been traveling the world. Susan reaffirms her love for Steve, and Flavia begins pressuring Susan and Steve to finally get married. However, Steve is hesitant because he knows that as an ex-convict on parole he will have a difficult time reestablishing himself and that he may not get his old job back as a taxi driver. Hoping to make a fresh start in a new city, Steve makes plans to leave town as soon as his six-month probation expires. Upset at her failure to prompt Steve and Susan's engagement, and worried that Steve will leave town, Flavia goes to Mac for advice. Mac tells her that the best way to keep Steve from leaving is to keep him happy. Although Steve is barred from driving while he is on probation, his boss, Al Parker, gives him a job washing taxicabs. The same day that he rehires Steve, Al tells him that he is in love with Susan, and that he has asked her to marry him. Determined to keep Steve happy and prevent him from leaving New York, Flavia, meanwhile, decides to save up enough money to buy Steve his own taxicab. Soon after Helen tells Flavia a fable about mice bringing good luck and money, Flavia captures a mouse in her apartment, hides it in a cigar box placed inside a wall and waits for it to turn into money. A few days later, during a Fourth of July block party, two delinquent boys from the neighborhood steal Blind Mac's money box and hide their loot in the same wall in which Flavia hid her mouse. They throw out Flavia's mouse box and put Mac's money box in its place. After giving a patriotic speech at the block party, Flavia goes to retrieve her cigar box and finds money. She takes the cigar box home, only to be accused by Steve of possessing the money stolen from Mac. Flavia pleads her innocence and reminds her family that Helen told her that all mice turn to money. When Steve tells Flavia that Helen's story is just a fable, Flavia becomes disillusioned and thinks that her whole family believes that she stole the money. Helen, meanwhile, discovers that she is pregnant and may be at risk for complications in childbirth. Months pass, and Steve helps the still unemployed Joe and Helen prepare for their coming baby by giving them some money. After buying Flavia a new pair of roller-skates, Steve is then broke and desperately in need of a loan. When Daniel Oliver Madson, Steve's former gangster associate, offers to pay Steve to steal a truck out of his garage, Steve is unable to refuse the offer. Flavia, meanwhile, becomes further disillusioned and distrustful of adults when she overhears Steve talking to his parole officer about his prison sentence. A short time later, on Christmas Eve, Helen goes into labor and nearly dies from complications. When Flavia realizes that only a miracle can save Helen, she remembers that her mother once told her at midnight on Christmas Eve that she could pray to a kneeling cow for a miracle. Flavia suspends her disbelief long enough to search for the nearest cow and, in so doing, happens upon Steve in the middle of his rendezvous with the gangsters. Steve abandons his obligations to the mobsters to help Flavia, and the two of them find a cow just before midnight. At the stroke of midnight, the cow kneels and Flavia says a prayer for her mother. To everyone's delight, Helen revives. When Joe announces that he has found a job, and Steve decides to stay in New York to marry Susan, Flavia is finally convinced that happiness has been restored to her home.