Ellie, Max and their Papa came to Upper Canada from England in the spring of 1835. Now they are building a home in the wilderness on the edge of a lake. Ellie has learned many of the skills she needs to survive as a pioneer. Still, the dark forest that surrounds her home, is filled with dangers. Ellie is threatened by wild animals and storms. And she fears the people who live on the far side of the lake. After all, she has been told that ""Indians would skin you alive if they had the chance."" And now they are her family's nearest neighbors. The true test of Ellie's courage comes in the dead of winter when Papa fails to return from a hunting trip. She cares for her brother and the animals as best she can, but two nights pass and her fears mount. Ellie can only think of one place to turn. She must take Max and go, through deep snow and frigid conditions, to the native people around the lake. There she will find allies, not enemies.