In this suspenseful, traditionally sentimental war story, twelve-year-old Kolya is on the run in occupied Byelorussia, always one jump ahead of the Nazis who are determined to kidnap his companion, seven-year-old Lena, the daughter of popular, powerful General Rogachov. Kolya and Lena have previously been living in an idyllic forest hideaway with his schoolteacher grandfather, but the visit of a one-armed stranger full of suspicious curiosity spurs their flight and leads them into one close call after another and a succession of narrow escapes managed with the help of a brave child, a nameless resistance fighter, and a village of patriotic peasants. The one-armed man is never far behind them, and in the end he delivers a surprise message which compensates for the tearfully indulgent resolution. But the adventure is weakened by the narrator's olympian tone and, especially, by the faceless underdeveloped character of Lena, who acts more like three years old than seven and functions as an idealized excuse for Kolya's heroism rather than a protagonist in her own right. A novel more about children than for them; however a minority who can identify with quiet Kolya and enter into the prevailing mood of fervent patriotism will enjoy the fast-paced chase.