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Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne


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Children's Book of the Month

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne
Published by Doubleday, 2013

Alfie Summerfield will never forget his fifth birthday. On the 28th of July 1914, the fighting began. He knew that something was going on out there in the real world, something that all the adults were talking about but his mother was determined to protect him from even hearing about it. Now Alfie is nine and his father is no longer with them, having never returned since he joined up.

In an effort to help his mother out, Alfie shines shoes a few days a week to earn a few pounds and it’s while doing this at King’s Cross Station that he finds a clue to where his dad might be. Alfie realises his father is in a hospital close by suffering from a mysterious illness that we now know as shell shock.

Boyne uses the plight of Alfie and his father, to provide a thought-provoking insight into the way those who joined up were mistreated by their own regiments and how they were affected by the atrocities they witnessed whilst fighting for their country. He also addresses the issue of those who didn't go off to fight and how they were treated by their neighbours and friends for choosing to remain behind.

Like all John Boyne’s books for younger readers, Stay Where You Are and Then Leave succeeds in describing an exceptionally difficult situation through the eyes of a child sometimes even with humour, while at the same time offering hope for a happy ending.

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