It's 1908, and twelve-year-old Erik faces the challenges of adapting to pioneer life on the Canadian prairie and understanding what's really going on in his family..
Erik never wanted to leave his grandfather's farm, and the memory of his dead father, in Norway. But in Canada he and his family can have their own farm, so Erik, his mother, and his sister Elsa journey by steamship and train to the Canadian west with Rolf, their mother's new husband. Erik thinks he is old enough to look after the family - his mother didn't need a new husband for that. To make matters worse, Rolf is a hard man to talk to, and even harder to get to know. And he's keeping a secret from his new family. The farm isn't what they expected - it's just wide open prairie. Erik does a man's work, helping Rolf break land and build a sod house. Rolf's brother lives in the nearby town, with his wife and their son, Olaf. Olaf looks a whole lot like Rolf, but for some reason won't talk to him, and seems to resent Erik as well. What's going on here? The boys finally start to get along, mostly through their shared efforts to save Tapper, an injured horse they keep from being shot by its owner. Tapper gets well enough to be entered in a local horserace and turns out to be a real winner. "Tapper" is the Norwegian word for "brave", and Erik really must be "tapper" to face all the challenges of his new life and be a winner himself.