The work is set in what is today central southern Ontario, just south of Rice Lake, where three children become lost and must fend for themselves. Drawing from its namesake, Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe, the novel sets out to show that these children, two English Canadian and one French Canadian, are able to work together to survive in the new world of Canada. This spirit of cooperation is emphasized by the fact that the children later meet a Mohawk girl who joins their group and is able to help them with her own skills.
By the end of the novel, the children escape from the Canadian wilderness and are paired off - the English Canadian boy with the Mohawk girl and the French Canadian boy with the English Canadian girl. Their skills are all useful, and they must work together to survive. Metaphorically, their cooperation suggests the activity of peaceful nation-building. However, the English Canadian ethic is still privileged over the other views.