This is the story of a boy. He is called Mick by his father, Tom, and Storm Boy by the Aboriginal loner Fingerbone he befriends. This boy is growing up in an isolated corrugated iron shed next to a wildlife sanctuary. He lives with his father, who supports them by fishing alone. He is not attending school; he is illiterate and ignorant, and he doesn’t know any better. But he seems content with his life, and a little less curious about the outside world than one might expect. There’s a telling moment when he brings home a radio that washed up on the beach (he found it while looking for driftwood to burn). His father tells him to throw it away, because if he listens to it, he’ll hear advertisements and want things he can’t have.
There are intrusions on their life. A mob of idiot bird shooters kill a number of birds before they are scared off by Fingerbone (he shoots near them). Amongst the dead are some pelicans whose chicks are still in the nest. The boy brings them home to care for. His father isn’t keen, but permits it. Three pelicans become a lot to feed when they reach maturity, so his father insists on releasing them. Two are never seen again, but one, Mr Percival, keeps coming back.
Another intruder is the new primary school teacher, brought by the park ranger – she is concerned about his education, and pushes hard for him to be sent to school, or at least to do schoolwork by correspondence. She means well, but she is resented by the father – he doesn’t want anything to change in their reclusive life.