1941. The Japanese are occupying much of China in the Sino-Japanese War. Diplomatic security protects the International Settlement in Shanghai, the many westerners there still leading a very comfortable, western-styled life. Twelve year old Briton Jamie Graham, the son of a mill owner, has lived his entire life in the International Settlement, that life one of wealth and privilege. As such, Jamie, an airplane aficionado, is a spoiled child, who has not even learned Chinese, expecting any natives with who he deals, including the household domestics, to speak English. That comfortable life changes with the Japanese entry into WWII through the attack at Pearl Harbor. Simultaneously, the Japanese overtake the Settlement, including all its private property, forcing its western residents to evacuate immediately. It is through Jamie's self-absorption that he becomes separated from his parents during the evacuation, he, now alone, needing to fend for himself for the first time in his life. It is during this time if Jamie will grow up and learn to live within the new tenuous situation that he will either live or die, life which he hopes will mean eventually being reunited with his parents sometime down the road.