A native Balinese and his Dutch teacher have collaborated to tell the pleasing story of Bontot, a determined peasant boy, and his friends. A new school in their village brings together youngsters of previously separated castes: Dajoe, the dancer-daughter of the high priest; Koese of the nobility who's disinclined to study unlike Bontot, his very best friend; Krieje, the doekoen's ghost-storytelling son--he wants to be a healer like his father until a medical doctor proves the folly of witch-doctoring by saving Krieje's life; Merta, Bontot's kind and imperturbable older brother who's shamed by a harmless and humorous catastrophe into learning how to read. When Bontot outgrows the village school but finds his family unable to afford him a city education, he leaves to make his own way. Attending classes in the morning, he works selling popsicles and becomes a ""controller,"" only to be fired when one of his thirsty underlings is caught hawking already-sucked ones. He dishwashes in the congenial restaurant of a Moslem. . . until he graciously brings the boss some of his mother's roast pig. More school, more jobs--the last of which is helping a local art dealer--and Bontot returns home with commissions to send the dealer as many togok-togok (wood carvings) as he can produce. Reacquainted with the companions of his top-spinning, kite-flying adventures, he finds each of them changed by experience like his own, and all of them motivated by new ambitions to study at the advanced village school built in his absence. The book itself is discouragingly bulky and filled with foreign words and allusions, but with few exceptions the timbre is right in a story that's otherwise about kids anywhere--which is why kids anywhere who go for something different may go for it.