Author Jerry Spinelli tells the story of a boy who lives orphaned in Warsaw. The streets are the boy's home. The child has to steal to feed himself and other orphans. He witnesses the noble image of the Jackboots in their uniforms and longs to be a Nazi wearing the same clothing.
In chapter seven, Stopthief discusses the times when he and Uri ate well by stealing from stores and Uri's love for fresh pickles. Uri often went out to steal by himself. However, not too long after Stopthief had seen the men wearing the special boots, he decided to follow Uri. Stopthief runs into two Jackboots and innocently tells them that he had been told they hated him and that one day he wants to be a Jackboot just like them. He informs them that he is a gypsy.
Later a lady comes by with a box of pastries. Stopthief snatches the cream puffs and runs away as fast as he can. He accidentally runs into another boy and lands on his back. Both boys had been carrying pastries that were now on the ground. The boys had a good laugh and licked up the cream. A Jackboot sees them, but the boys take off in different directions. The boys refer to the men as Jackboots because of the tall boots the military men wear.
Stopthief finds a garden and devours two red tomatoes as a little girl watches. He tells Uri about them. Uri makes up a story about Stopthief's life. By creating this story, Uri has helped Stopthief to be born as a new person. His new name is Misha Pilsudski and he cannot wait to share it with someone.
In Chapter eight, Misha goes back to the garden where he had seen the little girl. No tomatoes are left, but the child has left him a treat of candy that he devours. She is watching him. For the first time, Misha tells the story of who he is using his new name and new life story. Inquisitive as he is, he asks the girl if she is a Jew. She is scared to tell him, but she says that she is a Jew. The girl measures her height against his, and they are almost the same size. She then invites him to a party.
Misha attends the party, but when the cake is lit, and he sees all of the candles, he believes they will burn it up. Therefore, he steals the cake and runs back to Uri with the cake. Uri has to explain to him about birthday cake and candles. Realizing his mistake, Misha steals a cake and lights a candle on it. He leaves it on the girl's doorstep and runs away.
As Misha is walking through the town, he sees men with torches burning and painting things on people's buildings. He witnesses men holding a man and painting his face and body. A man even paddles the man. The men are laughing at what they have done.
The following day he and Uri go out and see the men are painting words on their buildings. They have been forced to paint the word Jew on the buildings so people will recognize that a Jew lives or works in the place. He learns that they have to do this to prevent people from buying from Jews.
Later, Misha tells the little girl that she will have to paint Jew on her window. She explains that no one is aware they are Jewish, and because she has red hair, she does not look like a Jew. He makes the comment that he is happy he is not a Jew but does not have any idea that being a gypsy will also affect his fate.