Youngsters may not quite swallow Melia's awe at the stuffed wildcat under glass in Great-aunt Despina's parlor or college cousin Niko's symbolic tales about him, but they'll likely respond to the story: it begins with universals--a boring Sunday, the start of an unfettered summer vacation--and becomes an affecting examination of what happens to children at the advent of dictatorship. The place isa small Greek island, the time 1936: the islanders, and even the members of Melia's family, are divided on Hitler, on the Spanish Civil War, and especially on the impending, later accomplished, takeover, by Metaxas. Niko, whom Melia and older sister Myrto and their friends idolize, is a staunch libertarian; when he has to go into hiding, the children help him. But Myrto, pretty and smart (and vain), is recruited as a standard-bearer for the new youth legion, as a potential spy on her own family, and finally as a thief for her fellow-legionnaires--whereupon she almost collides with Niko, and collapses from shame. . . . What makes this work is the credibility of Melia and Myrto as individuals and as sisters, and the childlike forthrightness of Melia's telling, encompassing puzzlement, dismay, steadfastness. The Greek author experienced the events; Edward Fenton, who found the book, translates smoothly.