This is the delightful and moving French novel, on which the recent movie is based, about a nine-year-old Jewish boy, sent to the safety of a rural French Christian home during World War II, and his friendship for the gruff old man who shares his childhood. The old man, Pepe, an opera buffo, gustily devoted to rabbits and his dog, is fiercely loyal to Petain--an old soldier's symbol of France; and apoplectically hostile to a rosary of France's enemies--among them Jews. With the dogged earnestness of children, the boy does attempt to understand why Jewish boys have to ""be good"" during wars; why they must not tell anyone about being Jewish; why Pepe hates Jews. But secure in Pepe's love, the boy finds him an easy prey, at one points wails the household down around Pepe's ears with accusations that Pepe is Jewish. Pepe's postures make just as much sense to the boy as Jew-hating, and he joyfully enters into the spirit of the absurd, while he and Pepe companionably weather minor trials and triumphs together and the tide of battle turns in favor of the Allies. The war--hitherto understood dimly by the boy--ends; the parents return; and Pepe is left--diminished. Although now and then an adult perspective filters through, this is a touching comment on credos men live by as seen through the eyes of a child.