Red Planet is the story of a group's struggle to survive on a newly colonized planet. Two boys, Jim Marlowe and Frank Sutton, together with Jim's Martian "pet," Willis, learn of a plot that endangers the entire colony on Mars.
The adults of the colony gradually begin to organize themselves in response to the threat, but they continue to rely on the enthusiasm and skill of the youngsters.
Just as the adults admit that they have lessons to learn from the children, so too does the human community eventually open itself to lessons from the native Martian community. The colonists discover that many of their initial assumptions about the Martians—particularly those concerning intelligence—have been faulty. The humans realize that they must strive to understand civilizations that differ from their own, and to appreciate the value of others' insights.