Henry Day is an average seven year old child, if a little sullen. Angry at his mother, and wishing to punish her, he runs off into the woods and ceases to be an average child. Stolen by the changelings, creatures of the woods, who prey on innocent children, stealing their lives, he is fated to wait out decades in the forest, a child forever, until it is his turn to rejoin the world.
Told in alternating chapters, one voiced by the real Henry Day, Aniday as he is known to the changelings, and the other narrated by the changeling who takes his place, The Stolen Child is a sad story. It speaks powerfully of personal identity, fear and loss. As others have said, it starts off slowly, but by the end has become a poignant tale of hope. Through the first half of the book, I would have rated it no more than three stars, and that was pushing it, despite how beautifully Donahue writes. The second half however, manages to elevate itself masterfully, which for me, at least, managed to overpower the doubts I had at the start.
It was hard to love either Henry or Aniday, and up until the end, I found all the character to be quite flat with the exception of some the secondary cast. But just like the rest of the novel, by the end, they became much more fleshed out and believable.
I actually think this would be a great book to read with an older child, maybe around age 11. There are many themes touched on throughout the book that would make for great open discussions that would be more than appropriate for this age group. For a younger child, it might be okay as long as they aren't prone to fear and nightmares.