When his astonished enemy Dovid, a bully who tormented him back in their Russian village, asks why Mendel has risked his life to save Dovid's, Mendel -- trying to fathom his own motives -- can only reply, ""I had to close a circle."" He is recalling his father's words: ""All growing things live and die in a circle...My knowledge is part of a circle from my grandfather...to me...and now to you...it is when you give that you gain power...Only then do you become a circlemaker."" At 12, Mendel has fled from the forcible induction of Jewish boys into the czar's army; by coincidence, one of the men who helps him toward the Hungarian border pairs him with Dovid -- who has just escaped from the army -- for the journey's last leg. Though Dovid is far less vicious than Zed in Carol Matas's Sworn Enemies (1993, a YA novel about two older boys entrapped by the czar's army), he remains antagonistic and abusive even as the two help each other; but unlike Zed, he shows signs of response to a generosity that grows out of his unwilling companion's deeply rooted faith. Schur touches on the army's horror when Dovid recounts his experience of it, but centers on Mendel's journey and the courage and kindness he meets along the way. The genuinely evoked setting and circumstances and the plucky boy's narrow escapes compel attention; the fact that he's last seen boarding a ship, penniless but hoping to find an aunt in New York, suggests a sequel.