The day the First World War
broke out, Alfie Summerfield’s father promised he wouldn’t go away to fight—but
he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn’t know
where his father might be, other than that he’s away on a special, secret
mission. Then, while shining shoes at King’s Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly
sees his father’s name on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor.
Bewildered and confused, Alfie realizes his father is in a hospital close by—a
hospital treating soldiers with an unusual condition. Alfie isn’t sure what
shell shock is, but he is determined to mount a rescue mission to bring his
father back from this strange, unnerving place.
John Boyne beautifully captures the impact
of the First World War and society’s ambivalence toward the resulting
mental illness suffered by some returned soldiers—what we today would call post-traumatic stress disorder. This young adult novel is a great introduction to one of modern history's major turning points and will likely draw in adult readers as well. Download and start listening now!