Ethan lives on the canal. He likes it there. He can go to the pond and catch newts and minnows. He can learn everything he needs to know from books and from his mum. No one there laughs at him because he doesn't talk. Ethan can't remember exactly when he stopped talking or why.
The adventure starts when cousins Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone are run out of Boneville and later get separated and lost in the wilderness, meeting monsters and making friends as they attempt to return home.