Emily Starr has never known what it is to be unloved. But when her father dies, she is left in the care of her mother's family. Emily is a stranger to the proud Murrays, none of whom think they can cope with such a heartbroken, headstrong girl. They decide to draw lots for her, and Emily is sent to live at New Moon with stern Aunt Elizabeth, the head of the clan. Kind Aunt Laura and friendly, eccentric Cousin Jimmy also live at New Moon, though, so she is not without hope.
Emily is enchanted by New Moon, but cannot believe she will ever belong there. With her lively imagination and dreams of being a famous writer, she seems to have a talent for scandalising her family. Before long, though, she has made firm friends: Ilse, a tomboy with a blazing temper, Teddy, an aspiring artist, and Perry, the ambitious houseboy. She brings so much life to New Moon, perhaps one day even Aunt Elizabeth will consider herself lucky to have 'won' Emily.