Twelve-year-old Ben Guthrie appears to have a good life. His family are well off and his father is a successful and ambitious butcher. However, there are some things that Ben doesn't understand. His father attempts to explain the facts of life, but Ben is more interested in the bigger life picture, such as why some people are starving. When both his parents fail to provide answers, Ben begins an inspired crusade to make the world right. He becomes a neighbourhood nuisance and an embarrassment to his family, constantly and publicly challenging their values. His parents seek the help of friends and experts, to no avail. When Ben meets Esme, an elderly animal liberationist, and they end up in the hands of the police, his parents resort to faking family illnesses to distract Ben from the larger troubles of the world. But it is not until his work-obsessed father suffers a genuine heart attack that Ben is able to focus his energies on a problem he can do something about: helping his family.