It’s the Depression, but Red’s family is managing better than most on their Prince Edward Island farm. Hard working and resourceful, they have enough to eat and to help others, even if at times they are mocked by their neighbours for putting education ahead of farm work. Eleven-year-old Red has plenty of chores around the farm, and the days can be long, but he still gets the odd break to go swimming or fishing, provided his homework is done. Red’s older sister, Ellen, teaches at the local school, and if Red doesn’t shine, she will not only punish him, but also make sure their parents hear about it.
But then Red’s father’s hand is seriously injured and the family’s situation looks dire. Red steps up to the challenge, finishing the tobacco boxes that his father makes and helping shovel out a train stuck in the snow. Stubborn and even pigheaded, Red does make mistakes along the way (such as pretending to be dead so that his younger sister will stop following him), but his heart is always in the right place.