Heroes are in short supply for us all, though villains flood our national news and terrorize our private lives with relentless regularity. The real heroes of childhood are the people who take the time to listen to us, treat us with dignity, but also have scope and courage that awakens our possibilities and make us more thrilled at life, more willing to take chances.
When we meet Jonno Ayres, age 11, he is going off to Cape Cod for the summer to be with his Gram. His family has the makings of "Father Knows Best," with gentle mother, bothersome teen-age sister, chirpy younger sister and even a dog. But Jonno's dad doesn't know best, he only thinks he does, and Jonno feels put down, judged, pushed, and incapable of pleasing Phil Ayres, a "Renaissance Man," as he's been dubbed by the local paper.
At the beach, Jonno finds former buddy Peter has suddenly sprouted impressive new muscles along with an appetite for "scoping" girls. Jonno is baffled, then laid aside when Peter decides he prefers spending time with Jonno's rock freak sister to boyish bike rides and all-day adventures. The summer looks disappointing until Jonno meets Rob Loud, a middle-age man who plays the bagpipes and has the air of a living legend. Speaking in a beguiling Scottish brogue, Rob has all kinds of philosophical and folksy things to say, and he also plays haunting melodies that awaken in Jonno an unknown musical appetite. Jonno is entranced and mesmerized by his amazing friendship with this bigger-than-life war hero until he comes home late one early evening. Jonno's father, half out of envy, half out of overprotectiveness, forbids Jonno to see Rob without his permission.