It was a time of war"" in 1943 Paris and in a house on the Rue des Quatre Vents lived several families, sharing the excitements and indignities of a civilian population in an occupied city. For twelve-year-old Michel Sellier, it is the ""Pirates of the Resistance"" and his toy printing press--a miniature, make--believe underground; for Mme. Sellier, it is meals from scant rations and coping without a husband; for Norette Sellier, it is orphaned friend Soso living with them while her brother works as a maquisard. Always, there is contempt for the well-fed collaborationists upstairs, protection for a hiding Jewish family, concern for a wrongly arrested neighbor--a growing unity of purpose among the tenants. What makes the book so vital, so accelerative, is the range of human impulse revealed under the circumstances, especially among the children: sharing centimes to get a first Christmas tree for a younger brother; reliving a teacher's ""man-to-man"" talk; improvising explanations to outwit German officers. Michel (who eventually works for the Resistance) is the central figure but the whole house has character.