In the North Carolina summer of 1967, tragedy strikes their family, so Willa Jo and Little Sister are sent to stay with their Aunt Patty and Uncle Hob while their mother tries to come to terms with their family's loss. Now, Aunt Patty has more of a way with her garden gnomes than little girls, always concerned with the order and the rightness of a thing. This especially doesn't sit well with Little Sister, who hasn't said a word since her baby sister died, and plain refuses to let go of the drawing she carries with her everywhere. Luckily, Uncle Hob has a sweet, understanding way about him, and the neighbor kids, Lizzie and Isaac Fingers, are as nice as can be. Though Aunt Patty doesn't think their family is proper enough, the girls think they're mighty nice. And fun. And they have a cave to play in! Too bad the girls aren't allowed.