Romantic but not ?itty. From the first energetic scene, Kolya is more than a boy with a love for music, and even if many of his thoughts are directed toward getting a cello and then finding an instructor, just as much concerns his impressions and adventures in Odessa and Sevastopol in 1905. His family is genuinely poor and Kolya has to work but there is not a trace of self-pity or a moment of depression. Luck lands him a job with an opera company; his early backstage encounters are lively, especially in contrast to the cool reception from jealous theater people when his benefactor is exiled. He has strong ties: to three boys -- an artist, an engineer, and a poet, he insists, and the roles are more than labels; to Anka, who shares his cat seat view of performances; to older ""brother"" Egor, a radical seaman who obtains first a mandolin, then a cello. Again, Kolya's initiative and warmth uncover an instructor but then Egor is imprisoned and Kolya sells the cello to help him. He also works for a revolutionary group, is arrested (maybe he's thirteen) but escapes, and leaves town fast with someone else's papers in his pocket and, sentimentally, a song that represents his tremendous optimism and enthusiasm. Likely and likeable, and the old Russian scene is vivid but not forced.