cover image Stay Where You Are and Then Leave

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave

John Boyne, illus. by Oliver Jeffers. Holt, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-62779-031-4

Boyne (The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket) delivers an original look at what was known as “shell shock” during WWI through the eyes of Alfie Summerfield, a milkman’s son in a working-class London neighborhood. Opening on Alfie’s fifth birthday, July 28, 1914 (the day the “fighting had started”) and closing on his 13th, the story focuses on the fall of 1918, when Alfie discovers that his father—who had enlisted, against his family’s wishes, and who Alfie fears is dead—is in a nearby hospital. Readers who persist through the relatively slow first half will be rewarded with the excitement of Alfie’s daring adventure of bringing his father home; the closing chapter reunites all the characters, movie-ending style, mending frayed or broken relationships and tying up the loose ends a little too neatly. The book’s strength lies in Alfie’s appeal as a perceptive, hardworking, loving, and brave boy; some of his neighbors are intelligently and engagingly fleshed out, as well. Boyne gracefully renders the opposing strong feelings the war inspired, but uneven pacing weakens the overall effect. Art not seen by PW. Ages 9–12. (Mar.)