The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne is a fictional novel that takes us back in history to World War II. Similar to his novel, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, there is real tragedy here. Pierrot, a young boy growing up in Paris in 1936, loses both his German father and his French mother. When his best friend Anshel’s mother gives Pierrot to an orphanage for his own safety (these are not good times to be Jewish and be living in Paris), Pierrot’s own Aunt Beatrix finds him and brings him to Adolf Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Mountains where she is a housekeeper.
Beatrix, to keep Pierrot safe, asks him to forget his French roots, his childhood friend, and changes his name to “Peter.” Pierrot is quickly won over by the pageantry and power and Hitler’s personal attention. He is filled with a sense of superiority that his own father’s bloodline offers him. He becomes a cold, calloused teenager who eventually betrays his aunt and her lover who have forged a plot to poison Hitler. He coldly watches their execution from his bedroom window. Eventually, the Allies arrive. Herta, the only remaining member of Hitler’s staff tells Pierrot:
“The deaths you have on your conscience. But you’re still a young man, you’re only 16, you have many years ahead of you to come to terms with your complicity in these matters….Just don’t ever tell yourself that you didn’t know. That would be the worst crime of all!”
Years later, Pierrot finds Anshel who has become an author, and he tells him his story to write it down so that it can be shared with others. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain can be read by middle school students, but I think I would recommend it to high-schoolers. Continue reading