The strong flavor of a Malayan fishing village permeates this story of twelve-year-old Yusof whose keen perception inadvertently foils some invading Indonesians. Politics are peripheral, the boy's life is more important: father loses his boat to malicious pirates; mother worries about their future; sister looks out for a husband; and a widowed, busy-body aunt complains about or questions almost everything. A folk-like feeling is increased by cryptic sayings at the start of each chapter, conveying a sense of what will follow as well as general attitudes of the people; ""Not only falling from the ladder, but also the ladder falling upon you--that is misfortune"" or ""Even though small it is red pepper."" Yusof is likable, proud of being entrusted with his grandfather's kris (sheath sword), embarrassed that his claim of a hantu (ghost) is discredited, pleased that he can explain the incident later with the fragment of a grenade. A mysterious resident, a new sarong-seller, a Sultan's son, flashing lights at sea, secret beach diggings at night--it all adds up due to Yusof's genuine curiosity which shows ""how much (can) happen to a frog in a coconut shell."" The Malayan aspects are unevenly integrated into the story but a little goes a long way and lot is left to the reader.