Title: Stay Where You Are & Then Leave
Author: John Boyle
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, 2014
Alfie Summerfield wishes more than anything else that he could go back to his life before the First World War. Back then the British boy was five years old and his biggest problem was that his dad would not let him ride the milk float with him when he made his milk deliveries. When England entered the War Alfie’s dad volunteered to join the army thinking that it would be easier for him than waiting to get drafted. Four years later Alfie is still hoping for his dad to come home from the “secret mission” his mother claims he is on even if he fears his dad is really dead. The War has changed everything for Alfie—his dad is gone, his mom is constantly working, his friends are held captive by the English government because they are from Prague. Alfie stops going to school every day so he can shine shoes and help his mother pay bills. It is while he is shining shoes one day that he accidentally discovers that his father is neither dead nor on a secret mission, but really in a local mental hospital for soldiers with shell shock. Alfie does not truly understand what shell shock is but he is sure that his father would be much happier at home and Alfie embarks on his own secret mission to make that happen.
John Boyle has written a solid middle school novel about the effects of the First World War on a young boy and his family. Middle school boys will like Alfie’s independence and historical fiction readers will like the political backdrop of the story. The novel is a very quick read and will satisfy those historical fiction requirements.
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