Maz’s Shelf-Talker: The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, John Boyne

the boy at the top of the mountain

It is 1936, Pierrot lives with his French mother and German father in Paris speaking both languages as well as sign language with his mute best friend Anshel. His father increasingly struggles with depression and mental issues from his participation in WWI, eventually walking out. Soon after they hear he has fallen under a train in Germany. Pierrot’s mother contracts consumption and also dies. Pierrot sadly has to leave his dog D’Artagnan with Anshel and is placed in an orphanage. Things look up when his father’s sister, Aunt Beatrix, who Pierrot has never met, tracks him down with the news that her wealthy employer has agreed to let Pierrot live with them. So, aged 7, Pierrot takes the very long train journey alone across Europe. His sandwiches are taken from him by some Hitler Youth and he arrives very hungry and scared. He is met by his Aunt Beatrix and a chauffeur and driven to the house on top of the mountain… Adolph Hitler’s retreat The Berghof.

Surprisingly, as it is well-known that the Fuhrer does not like children, Hitler takes a shine to the boy and Pierrot is treated well.  Unfortunately Pierrot quite quickly realises the power of his new situation and learns how to manipulate those around him. This is a shocking and absolutely rivetting story of secrets and betrayal, power and corruption.

As with Boyne’s earlier children’s book The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas this is not a book for the faint-hearted and will also be appreciated by adult readers. It is a very powerful novel, an excellent book to be read aloud at home or in class and must be discussed.

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