Boyne, John. Stay Where You Are and Then Leave
March 25th 2014
by Henry Holt and Co.
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Alfie is content with his life-- he has a good friend nearby whose father owns a sweet shop, his father drives the milk truck, his grandmother lives across the street, and he knows all of the neighbors in his close knit community. On his fifth birthday, however, World War I breaks out, and everything changes. His father, Georgie, joins up and leaves. Money becomes tight. His mother becomes a nurse, and he only goes to school two days a week so he can shine shoes at Kings Cross Station the rest of the time. There's little food, but lots of anxiety. As the war goes on, Alfie begins to fear that his father has been killed and his mother is hiding this information from him. A chance encounter with a doctor informs him that his father is actually in hospital, so Alfie saves his money to travel there, only to find out that his father is severely shell shocked. Since the conditions in the hospital are deplorable, Alfie comes up with a plan to bring his father home, with mixed results.
Strengths: This was quite a good depiction of every day life in London during the Great War. While there wasn't a lot of action, there were a lot of interesting things happening, and I enjoyed it a lot. I was surprised because I haven't been a huge fan of Boyne's work, The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket was one of those odd, overly quirky British books that made me shake my head, and I could never quite believe The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I will buy this one for use in our historical fiction unit. Now, I just need to find "historical fiction" from the 1960s and 1970s-- otherwise known as "my life"!
Weaknesses: This does not have a great cover-- the Oliver Jeffers' lettering doesn't go over too well in the US (at least in my school). Most boys want descriptions of battles when they read war books, and this doesn't have very many. This will take a bit of selling, but I think will be well received by many students.