In The Boy and the Partisan, a thirteen year old city-boy named Bobby is spending his summer vacation with his grandparents in one of the small medieval villages in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains, where life has not changed in centuries. Anemic looking, dressed in city clothes and allergic to everything, he tries to ignore the lack of electricity and running water and struggles with the daily chores of feeding the horse, chickens, and cow, and bringing fresh water home from the distant well. Fueled by vampire literature and with Dracula’s castle only miles away, he strings together cloves of garlic to wear around his neck as protection.
Overnight, the Communist government Securitate troops take over the village and make Bobby’s grandparents’ house their headquarters. The soldiers begin combing the surrounding forested mountains searching for partisans. The partisans are “freedom fighters” who want to keep Communists out of the mountains, so hoped-for American paratroopers can safely land there and help free Romania from its Russian occupiers. For days the sound of gunfire and grenade explosions echoes through the mountains.
One day, while Bobby is in the forest looking for plants for a school project, a herbarium, he comes upon a wounded partisan who is hiding from Communist troops who are searching for him. The punishment for helping a partisan is severe, but because this partisan reminds Bobby of his father, who died in the war fighting the Soviet invaders of Romania, he decides he must do whatever he can.
With the help of his dog Volf and his horse Albu, Bobby has repeated narrow escapes as he outwits the government soldiers and saves the life of the partisan. Along the way he learns history that is not taught in the Communist-run schools—including that Prince Vlad Dracula was not a vampire, but a Romanian hero who, like the partisans, wanted to punish and expel invaders from the land. As his summer vacation ends, Bobby prepares to return home to Bucharest, a stronger and more confident teenager than the boy who came to the village months before.
This story is based on the real-life adventures of the author and other boys in 1952 who wanted to help freedom fighters and who dreamed of being heroes.