Scout lives on a main street in Maycomb. Her mom died when she was two, but she's got a nice dad, an okay brother, a really caring cool—and, the summer she's five, a new best friend named Dill. So, things are all right.
When she starts school in the fall, it's kind of awful.
But the kids manage to entertain themselves anyway by making up spooky stories about their shut-in neighbor, Boo Radley—who just might be the mysterious benefactor leaving them little presents inside a hollowed-out tree.
The next year, Scout starts getting in fights at school.
It seems her dad, Atticus, has taken on an unpopular case: the defense of a black man against a white woman's accusations of rape.
Since this is small-town, 1930s South, defending a black man is a big no-no.
Time passes. Scout learns lots of little lessons, like sometimes the mean neighbor is actually suffering from morphine addiction; and sometimes big brothers start getting moody and irritable when they grow up.
She also learns that the black community does things differently from the white community, when their black cook takes them to church with her.
Aunt Alexandra shows up to lady-fy Scout, which she's not too pleased about.
One night, Scout and Jem sneak out to follow their dad downtown.
He's sitting in front of the jail protecting his client Tom Robinson, and Scout intervenes when she realizes that the men who've shown up to talk to her dad aren't just there for a friendly chat.
The next morning, Scout, Jem, and Dill sneak off to watch the trial. It's pretty ugly. Even though Atticus is a good lawyer and Tom is clearly innocent, it's obvious that racism is going to make the (all-white) jury convict Tom.
And it's not just that—Bob Ewell, the father of the girl making the accusations—threatens Atticus. And then Scout learns that that Tom Robinson has been shot and killed while trying to escape from prison.
Third grade! Scout's no longer scared of Boo, but still kind of would like to see him.
She's cast as a ham in the school's Halloween pageant and wears it as she and Jem walk home on a dark night.
They're attacked, but Scout's costume keeps her in the dark. (Literally.)
A stranger picks up the unconscious Jem and carries him home while Scout follows.
At home, Scout learns that Jem is fine but has a broken arm, that Mr. Ewell is the one who attacked them and is dead, and that Boo carried Jem home—and also killed Mr. Ewell.
Atticus and a friend agree to protect Boo with a little white lie about how Mr. Ewell accidentally killed himself, and Scout finally understands why prejudice isn't cool.