Growing up in St. Louis in the Forties when the distant war gave life extra excitement and purpose, twelve-year-old Dee and her young brother Rico are caught up in a milieu of scrap-paper drives, defense stamps, patriotic songs, and war games. Then Rico finds a pregnant stray cat which, because of mean landlord Mr. Frisbie's ban on pets, he hides in the basement of their four-family house. But later the cat takes up residence in an old barn said to be inhabited by a mad scientist; Rico, bravely fetching her, discovers the ""mad scientist"" to be a ""Jap""; and then the ""Jap"" is revealed as an old Japanese-American who fears being put in a detention camp. Getting to know Mr. Nakamura causes Rico to feel differently about war, and it's fun to see this volatile little boy then throw his energies into knitting for the soldiers and collecting clothes for Britain--war efforts that don't contribute to killing people. Brookins goes too far when a rip-roaring fire reveals even Mr. Frisbie as sentimental and kind, and he and Rico establish a truce; and in fact, credibility and contrivance wage a touch-and-go battle throughout the story. But the author's memories of the time and the neighborhood tip the scales for victory.