Gabriel, a pre-adolescent squirrel, is being tormented at school by the socially dominant letes, led by Chopper and Bammer, who are forever finding new ways to humiliate Gabriel in front of his peers. Gabriel is estranged from a biological father who appears to have lost all interest in his only son; and from a stepfather who seems to resent Gabriel’s very presence; and from a popular older sister, Cherice, who beats Gabriel time and again at video games. To the chagrin of his mother and stepfather, Gabriel is no longer welcome at the Church of the Sacred Elm, where Gabriel recently asked the Reverend Willow, in front of the entire congregation, if the Great Rodent could create an acorn so large he couldn’t eat it all. Curious and reflective by nature, Gabriel had intended no harm; he had simply been unable to resist being entirely himself.
Increasingly despondent and desperate, Gabriel sends a letter to Scurry McMurray, a celebrity pawnut player, requesting Scurry’s autograph. Gabriel hopes that possessing even a tiny piece of a popular celebrity pawnut player’s ‘greatness’ would elevate his own stature in the eyes of his tormenters. When Gabriel does not receive a reply, he sets out, woefully unprepared, on a quest to obtain in person the great Scurry McMurray’s autograph.
Venturing deeper into the forest than he had ever been before, Gabriel nearly falls prey to a sinister presence lurking in the shadows, and then comes heart-stoppingly close to plummeting to his death from atop a tall pine. In both cases, Gabriel escapes harm by virtue of knowledge he has gained from listening attentively in Master Learned’s Forest Survival class, as well as by virtue of climbing skills he has developed from many seasons of escaping his tormenters.
Becoming hopelessly lost, Gabriel happens upon Mister Tim, a self-exiled gnawer of heart sculptures, who guides Gabriel, in a most unusual way, toward finding his way.