The seriousness, intensity, and reach of this novel of a twelve-year-old Chicago boy in World War II make it something out of the ordinary; and if it's overly schematized, it also has moments that perfectly connect, lake Ackerman is pained--by the three stars on the flag in the window (for his three older brothers in service); by the recollection of Chris Petropolous' fatal fall from a telephone pole, which Francisco Avenue bully Howie Woscowicz dared him to climb; by the constant tormenting of Howie and his cohorts--beginning when Howie urinated on Jacob through a hole in a litter basket. Shame impells him to get a job, making desk blotters in old man Gold's workshop: first, ""embossing"" on an infernal machine; then, promoted, ""turning corners""--each a delicate, absorbing operation: in old Izzie Gold's words, ""making everything into something."" lake admires a fellow-worker, 13-year-old Harry Katz, for his swagger; and conceives of Harry, a fellow-Jew, as an ally against Howie and the others. He will even, like Harry, be Bar Mitzvahed: it is his offering to his parents when one of his brothers is wounded. But Harry disappoints--by running from Howie and then fighting him unfairly; by, on the morning of his Bar Mitzvah, forgetting the appointment that causes lake to trudge through the snow and ruin his new, precious high boots. Still, old man Gold's words on completing what one starts prevail; and by the time lake too has been Bar Mitzvahed, the bad memories have faded and even Howie is not a threat, lake is a convincing nebbish, the adults are variously vivid, the triumph is fairly won.