Kirkus Star


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Projecting a seductively evocative sense of the time and place, and cast with a fresh and lively international mix of youngsters, this brings back the summer of 1922 in Kifissia near Athens, where five children come together and form the Pallikars, with secret names and a secret language, Desperanto, and high resolve to do good deeds and oppose all Turks and selected grownups. For twelve-year-old Nikolas, the dressmaker's son, the company of the foreign children opens a glamorous new world (""out of your waters,"" his mother warns) that is shadowed only by the war he reads about in a dead Greek soldier's journal. For vacationing Americans Oliver Avery and his cousin Edith, it is a chance for romantic adventure, made more exciting by the controversial Greek war that occupies the grownups' conversations. And for primped-up Nadine and Stephanie, occupying the villa next door with their singer mother and their new Greek ""uncle,"" it is just one in a series of moves, with a series of rich ""uncles."" As the children plot and sometimes miscarry their deeds, Kifissia's social life goes on, the figs ripen, and Madame Arnauld, the girls' mother, prepares for a September recital in her garden. Then comes the burning of Smyrna, and the Pallikars rush off by train for Piraeus, where Oliver flings bread loaves to hungry refugees in defiance of police regulation. Back home, the Pallikars find and hide three children from Smyrna, who are looking for their aunt and dodging the refugee committee. By now, the Americans are sincerely moved by the refugees' plight--but no loss-of-innocence wartime tragedy ensues here. The refugee children simply slip away, and so too do the singer and her daughters, after a scandalous altercation disrupts the recital. And so the children part at their fig-tree meeting place, vowing ""that we will never become like Turks, even when we are old and grown-up. . . and we will never forget each other!"" For them, and maybe for readers too, figs and refugees will always be associated.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1982
Publisher: Delacorte