When eleven-year-old Katy Sue loses her mother to meningitis, she and her family must adjust to life without her. The rural farm in the 1940s provides a natural backdrop that is rhythmic and routine but unforgiving, even when a family member dies. The house's emptiness is filled only when her Aunt Katherine comes to the family's aid, as does Jake, a family friend. Katy Sue, the youngest of the three children, struggles to understand what the loss of her mother means for her now. With the guidance of her teacher, she begins to imagine her future through drawing, a process that allows her to accept her father's soon-to-be wife, the farm life without her mother, and, eventually, her own role within the family.