Stories unfold, tales to be told,

Some of these pieces are worth more than gold.

Battling pirates, land ho and “arr”s,

Fancy tea parties, and aliens from Mars.

Writers are magicians, pulling words from thin air,

Creating the stories we all love and share.

A book is a door to another world.

Read it, and it’s vibrant tale gets unfurled.

~Deneva Lefever

Now that we’re not bogged down with schoolwork, there's time to explore our favorite stories, such as the Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia series, and newer books like the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. Not only are they fun to read, but they can also express powerful messages. For example, The Lorax promotes environmental protection through its story on the consequences of the use of resources going completely out of control.

A couple of weeks ago, I read a book that had a big impact on me and the way I see war. Stay Where You Are and Then Leave, by John Boyne, the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a novel from the perspective of Alfie Summerfield, a nine-year-old boy whose father volunteers to fight for Britain during World War One and returns only to be put into a mental institution after getting shell-shock, a condition that soldiers can get after being stuck in stressful war situations for too long.

It’s a very well-written book, and John Boyne shows the viewpoint of a young kid really realistically. He doesn’t fully understand why his father is leaving at first (he was five at the start of the book). He’s best friends with the daughter of a Austro-Hungarian immigrant (in what’s now the Czech Republic). Her family experiences a lot of difficulty because the Austro-Hungarian Empire is allied with Germany, which is who Britain is fighting. Alfie can’t understand why people hate them just because of where they're from.

One part that really affected me was a little excerpt from one of Alfie’s dad’s letters, where it sounds a little nonsensical and definitely troubled. He’s clearly going through a lot, and much of the horror the father experienced can’t really be put into words (don’t worry, this book is perfectly fine for all ages). It really brings some reality into how I see war. Another part is in the middle of the book, when Alfie throws a white feather at a friendly neighbor in a crying fit when he says he can’t help him go and break him out of the institution (the neighbor is a conscientious objector, which is someone who refuses to go to war because they think the war is wrong, and handing them a white feather was a way to insult him and call him a coward). Alfie’s feelings are easy to understand, but the scene is still heartbreaking.

In conclusion, Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is a deeply moving and well-researched book. It was a great experience reading it, and there were a lot of powerful parts. It’s a good novel with a realistic tone, and I’d definitely recommend it as a summer read.