This book is based loosely on actual historical accounts, and takes place in Yosemite Valley, California around 1868. It features a rather free-spirited girl named Floy (nickname: Squirrel) and her escapades with a 30-year-old sawyer and carpenter, who worked at her father's hotel and who later became famous. It is the experiential science education she receives from the soon-to-be-famous conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir, that channeled her mischievousness and energy into a deeper understanding and appreciation of the natural world that lay right outside her doorstep.
Floy was the original latch-key child, because her parents were busy running their business. So, she filled each day's hours with tomboy-like activities and tricks. She became a rather wild and abrasive little girl who frightened most of the hotel's adult visitors. That is, until she met her match.
John Muir had walked a thousand miles when he arrived one day looking for work in Yosemite Valley. When Muir came into her father's employ, Floy's world changed forever. Here was a man who was the male counterpart of Floy, albeit older than she was. He liked exploring nature too, and he didn't feel threatened by her antics. Like her, he wasn't worried about what others might think of his behavior or worry about being odd.
He wanted to enjoy nature to the fullest and, as she shadowed him, Floy learned: how to listen to snow fall, what it feels like to be a river rock, how to enjoy a storm by riding atop a tree in the wind, how to appreciate the many kinds of wildflowers, how to study ants with a magnifying glass, and how to identify many native plants and animals. She even learned about Muir's theory of glaciers and how they carved Yosemite's landforms. John saw glacier trails where others saw nothing, and soon Floy could see these too!