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Noah Barleywater Runs Away

Review

Noah Barleywater Runs Away

John Boyne, award-winning author of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS, has written his second children's novel. NOAH BARLEYWATER RUNS AWAY is a fairytale for young readers, roughly a novella in length, filled with sweet magic and thoughtful, discreet advice. Strange and wondrous adventures and creatures lie within the pages of this delightful little book, which is also a sensible story centering on a serious subject: the mystery behind one troubled eight-year-old boy's sudden decision to run away from home.

Like most children who run away for a single afternoon, Noah has no solid plan in mind and is shockingly bereft of any reason. He's impulsive. He takes nothing with him. He's entirely certain of his own ability to get along fine. Of course, he tells no one what he's doing and is never coming back. But thankfully, there are good-natured folks out there willing to help souls like Noah. The ones he meets at the edge of the forest, in fact, make his experience an enchanted one.

As Noah journeys far from home, he gets about two towns away before becoming distracted by an odd-looking tree, which is actually a toyshop. Around this are curious animals and creatures, loitering, that begin speaking to him. This isn't surprising to Noah; he's well acquainted with these kinds of ideas and quite imaginative. This is a good distraction for an eight-year-old trying to get over the guilt of running away from his family.

Enraptured, Noah discovers within the tree many animated toys and magical objects, but the real prize is a grizzled old man who makes the toys and lives there. He actually seems to have lived there indefinitely, is very kindly, and has an interesting story to tell. And this stranger just happens to have the right bit of advice to help Noah out of his difficulties.

Setting off to travel the world, Noah instead ends up meeting new people and enjoys the company of a wise and understanding stranger who listens to him and thinks about his well-being. Noah's life's journey kicks off when the old man asks the obvious question: "Why would any boy want to run away? Your family must be horrible; terrible things must have happened, right?" Noah's lips are sealed. He's understandably sensitive about his reasons, and it's only natural for anyone to first demand the trust of a stranger before being expected to give up so much.

The book launches here into a series of charming and dream-like stories about this strange old man's worldly travels when he was just a boy about Noah's age. His fantastic account takes readers across the globe, through Europe, South America and North America as he explains that, just like Noah, he once had a father who loved him dearly, but his choice to run away came with consequences. This stranger's tale is fantastical but surprisingly personally relevant to Noah's own struggles and life difficulties.

NOAH BARLEYWATER RUNS AWAY is both a fantasy and a tale of caution, with its focus on loyalty and love. The cover illustrations are beautiful, but there are only a few pictures throughout the book. Children of the age to believe completely in magic will wholeheartedly enjoy this wholesome story, which (by the way) would also make an excellent choice for vocal storytelling or family enjoyment.

Reviewed by Melanie Smith on May 10, 2011

Noah Barleywater Runs Away
by John Boyne

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2011
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: David Fickling Books
  • ISBN-10: 1849920400
  • ISBN-13: 9781849920407