The last year of WW II from the perspective of Shao-shao, a ten-year-old Chinese boy living in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. Signs of war are ever-present: American air raids, repression of Chinese culture by the Japanese, food shortages, paranoia, an underground resistance movement; but in comparison with people in other places, middle-class Chinese here are living in the ""eye of the storm,"" desperate for an end to the war but isolated from its worst horrors. Shao-shao copes with ordinary school problems, fights bullies, plays with crickets, and has a crush on the girl next door, whose father collaborates with the Japanese. Resentment of his own stern, distant father--along with the means by which they eventually reconcile--dominates his life. The authors (a chemistry professor, on whose childhood the story is based, and a librarian) try valiantly to make Shao-shao likable and believable; but despite the dramatic possibilities here, there is only a scant thread of suspense to compel a young reader from page to page, while the stiff style and adult tone may also keep the narrative from appealing to the intended age group.