Noah Barleywater Runs Away

John Boyne, Author, Oliver Jeffers, Illustrator
John Boyne, illus. by Oliver Jeffers. Random/Fickling, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-385-75246-6
Reviewed on: 07/11/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
At age eight, Noah Barleywater runs away from home. He is "the seventh cleverest boy" in his class and has "read 14 books from cover to cover" but does not consider these achievements sufficient, and seeks adventure. On his journey, which has strong shades of Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth, he travels through quirky villages—in one, when he picks apples, it is considered a serious crime, and the tree and apples are rushed to the hospital—before meeting a dachshund and a donkey, who point him to a magical toyshop. There he meets an old man, his friends, and many intricate puppets, which represent figures from the man's past. As the old man shares his stories, which touch on themes of courage, selflessness, and keeping promises, Noah opens up about his own family's struggles. Though the magical elements in this carpe diem tale are loosely bound by a meandering thread, Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) touchingly conveys Noah's emotional development from a boy in denial of painful realities to a young man who accepts that which can't be changed. Ages 8–12. (May)
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