cover image The Runaways

The Runaways

Ulf Stark, illus. by Kitty Crowther, trans. from the Swedish by Julia Marshall. Gecko, $17.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-77657-233-5

After Gottfried Junior’s beloved, cantankerous grandfather, a former ship’s engineer, suffers a bad fall, he lands in the hospital. Miserable, he asks his kindred-spirit grandson to help him briefly flee to his house in the Stockholm archipelago, where he has “one or two things to attend to.” With remarkable attention (“you have to think of everything”), the boy sees to all the details—manufacturing an overnight football club trip, garnering meatballs from his mother, and hiring a butcher’s assistant to convey them. The plans go off without a hitch, though it takes Grandfather two hours to walk up the hill to the front door, and he largely refuses to share the final jar of his late wife’s lingonberry jam (“part of her is still in it”). Autumn-hued illustrations by Crowther (Stories of the Night) juxtapose the dull hospital against glorious piney islands and a light-filled sea. Stark straightforwardly conveys family tensions, end-of-life concerns, and intergenerational adoration alongside an archipelago’s worth of vivid details—the removal of paraffin wax from the jam jar, the “wonderful smell of oil” from the ferry’s engine room, potatoes steaming in their pot. Most children’s books about breakouts involve a child abandoning a place; this one follows a man at the end of his life to the home he holds dear. Ages 6–11. [em](Apr.) [/em]