Boyne, John. Stay Where You Are & Then Leave. New York: Henry Hold and Company, 2013. Print.
Yet again, this is a book I got signed by the author at TLA conference (2014). I was excited to met John Boyne, as he wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I finally got around to reading this story. It is probably a little young for high school students, as Alfie Summerfield, the main character, is only 5 when the story begins.
The story takes place prior to and during World War I. Alfie's father goes off to fight, leaving Alfie and his mother to survive at home. Alfie earns money by shining shoes at the train station. There, he learns that his father must be alive and sets out to find him at the hospital. His father suffers from "shell shock" and is not himself. Alfie doesn't understand what has happened to his father (as the doctors seemed a bit baffled themselves). This is understandable.
Some of the events seemed unbelievable (e.g., Alfie travels alone and is able to get his father out of the hospital; Alfie shines the Prime Minister's shoes). However, because this book, I think, is geared towards a younger audience, I can accept some latitude in what the young character is able to pull off in the story. I was glad that Alfie talked to Joe Patience and gained more "adult" knowledge about his dad.
I enjoyed the description of the librarian (as I seem to notice more since becoming one). "He loved to hear Mrs. Jillson, the librarian, reading from a book...Mrs. Jillson was as old as the hills, but she put on funny voices and made all the children do the same thing, and Alfie loved that part of it" (Boyne 50). Ahhh...the difference a little fun can have with a child.
I learned about white feathers and the war. Apparently, women would hand out white feathers "to any young man they see who isn't in a uniform. It means you're a coward" (Boyne 175).
The title reference is on page 101. It comes from Alfie's dad's letters where he explains his role in the trenches. It is further explained on page 216.
So, I think this is a good book for middle grade readers. This coming of age story touches on war, relationships, discovering knowledge, understanding "adult secrets" and the importance of family.