John Boyne, the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, has turned his attention to WWI during this 100th anniversary of the outbreak of what was called “The Great War.” Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is set in London and told through the point of view of Alfie Summerfield, whose father enlists on Alfie’s fifth birthday. Four years later, Alfie is twelve and hasn’t heard from his father in two years. His mother tells Alfie that his father’s letters stopped coming because he’s on a “secret mission.” When Alfie becomes a shoe shine boy to help his hard-working and stoic mother, he learns that his father is actually in a nearby hospital, and he embarks on his own secret mission to find his father. The hospital where Alfie finds his father is a place for soldiers suffering from the impacts of shell shock, what we refer to as PTSD. Confused by what he sees there, Alfie becomes more determined to bring his father him. This is a beautiful and affecting story that is accessible to mature middle grade and middle school readers who enjoy historical fiction and are beginning to think about the affects of war on civilians.
Lists of books being published in late 2014 and 2015 are beginning to show up on-line. Here are a few of the titles I’m excited about…
The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (the fifth and final installment of the Heroes of Olympus series. Published in October – just in time for holiday book buying!)
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Woodson’s memoir of growing up in the 1960s and 1970s will be out in late August. A friend who read an advanced copy gives it a glowing review!)
Gus and Me: My Grandad and My First Guitar by Keith Richards (a picture book – with illustrations by his daughter – by the Rolling Stones guitarist. Published in September.)
The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak (I don’t get how this could work, but I’m a loyal fan of The Office so curious…)
Trouble by Jacqueline Davies (Davies is the author of The Lemonade War, a four book series of adventures for middle grade readers. Trouble is a new series about two girls in a small town, get bored, and of course”trouble” follows. A long wait for this one – publication is scheduled for fall 2015.)
Two art notes:
First, if you are in Northampton Massachusetts this summer, make time to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and see Simms Taback: Art by Design. Taback, who died in 2011, was the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator of 2000’s Joseph Had a Little Overcoat and 1998’s I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.
Finally, this painting….
“The Most Beloved American Writer” was painted by Norman Rockwell, and the writer he refers to is Louisa May Alcott. I saw this postcard in a bookstore the other day – the first time I had ever seen it. The original is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It’s a cozy painting, largely because of that horizontal raft over Alcott’s head that makes the setting more intimate. I also love the light coming from the window. A trip to the museum is on the list for my next visit to Washington.