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Harry Miller's Run

Review

Harry Miller's Run

Written by David Almond with illustrations by Salvatore Rubbino

A heartwarming short story by David Almond, HARRY MILLER’S RUN gets deluxe treatment as a standalone book with new illustrations, perfect for reading aloud.

I first encountered David Almond’s story HARRY MILLER’S RUN in his 2014 short story collection HALF A CREATURE FROM THE SEA, which brought together a half-dozen or so short stories set primarily in the north of England (where Almond himself grew up), along with some autobiographical notes about the origin and inspiration of each story. Several of the stories in that collection, including HARRY MILLER’S RUN, offer an intriguing blend of magical or supernatural elements with realistic descriptions of real-life places, people and customs.

"HARRY MILLER’S RUN works beautifully as a standalone picture book, perfect for reading aloud with a parent or older relative....As Mr. Miller’s memories grow more vivid, so do the colors in Rubbino’s accompanying paintings, mirroring the vitality of the story and of Mr. Miller’s memories."

Now HARRY MILLER’S RUN has been repackaged as a standalone book, complete with beautiful ink and watercolor illustrations by Salvatore Rubbino. The story takes place in the present day, as an 11-year-old named Liam trains to run his first junior Great North Run (the full race is the largest half-marathon in the world, with 57,000 runners making their way just over 13 miles, from Newcastle to the sea.

Liam’s just gotten his race number in the mail, and he’s eager to meet up with his best mate and go for a training run. But his mother insists they spend some time with their neighbor, old Mr. Miller, whose weakness and growing dementia have made it necessary for him to move from his own apartment into a nearby nursing home. As he takes a break from packing, Mr. Miller tells Liam and his mother a story of when he was a boy and ran, on a whim, his own version of the Great North Run, an unplanned adventure that still looms large in Mr. Miller’s memories. As Liam continues to prepare for his own race, he will not soon forget Mr. Miller’s story, which comes vividly to life at a most surprising moment.

Although it was originally published as a short story, HARRY MILLER’S RUN works beautifully as a standalone picture book, perfect for reading aloud with a parent or older relative. Its messages about the value of listening to elders and the power and persistence of memory will resonate with many audiences, as will its heady descriptions of the difficult but ultimately exhilarating run to the seashore. Rubbino’s illustrations provide a lovely counterpart to Almond’s prose. Some illustrations are rendered in shades of gray, much like the old black-and-white photograph that sparks Mr. Miller’s story in the first place. As Mr. Miller’s memories grow more vivid, however, so do the colors in Rubbino’s accompanying paintings, mirroring the vitality of the story and of Mr. Miller’s memories. HARRY MILLER’S RUN would be a wonderful gift for a young person about to try their first road race, or for anyone who values sharing stories with the people they love.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on February 23, 2017

Harry Miller's Run
Written by David Almond with illustrations by Salvatore Rubbino