Thursday, October 17, 2013

Noah Barleywater Runs Away (2010)

Noah Barleywater Runs Away. John Boyne. 2010/2012. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Noah Barleywater left home in the early morning, before the sun rose, before the dogs woke, before the dew stopped falling on the fields.

Would I have enjoyed Noah Barleywater Runs Away if I'd read it as a child? No, I'm sure I wouldn't have. Did I enjoy it as an adult? Yes. I've learned to handle those kinds of books now; I can even predict them early on. Plus I've read a certain children's classic twice now!

John Barleywater is running away from home. It becomes obvious within a few pages that this novel has some magical elements in it. By the time readers meet the talking dog and donkey, it's clear that readers are in for a fantastical treat. They may be disappointed that all the adventure happens in story format as an "old man" shares his life story with sprinkles of advice to John in the quirky corners of an old toy shop. I happened to enjoy this aspect of it. I think they have something to learn from one another; I think 'the gift' worked both ways. The old man was able to persuade the 8 year old boy to return home to his parents; and the young boy was able to give the old man some resolution, perhaps.

I guessed the reason why John Barleywater was running away from home. This is revealed to readers in several stories throughout the novel. While most of the stories concern the life of the "old man," he is able to coax the young boy into sharing stories of his own.

'You should never want to be anything other than you are,' the old man said quietly. 'Remember that. You should never wish for more than you have been given. It could be the greatest mistake of your life.' (191)
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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