Nobody likes Tess the balloon-animal-artist. She lives in crumbling Krümblbürgh with her cat Laurel, surrounded by awful people who hate her for no good reason. Then, one day, a postman on a squeaky bicycle delivers a present to her from an unknown admirer: A tiny white box, bound and bowed with a red ribbon. Inside is a slightly bigger box. And inside that box is a slightly bigger box again. Wanting only to get rid of the unnerving gift, Tess and Laurel soon find themselves on a sprawling, rambling, nonsensical adventure to unravel the mysteries surrounding her birth, the eerie Potato People and the true significance of her unusually clever cat.