Age: 9+ Noah Barleywater Runs Away, by John Boyne
Written by the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, John Boyne tells a very different story in Noah Barleywater Runs Away.
It is magical, quirky and captivating and makes a great read for those who enjoy something a little unusual.
The plot does what it says on the tin – 8 year old Noah Barleywater runs away from home. The reason for his running away is not clear at first but is gradually revealed as the story unfolds.
Noah runs to a magical wood where he finds an enchanting toy shop full of wooden puppets. The shopkeeper, who is also the puppet maker, invites Noah upstairs for a tremendously large lunch.
As Noah tucks into this veritable feast, the shopkeeper tells Noah intriguing and magical stories of his past. In turn Noah explains to the shopkeeper why he is running away from home.
Gradually it becomes apparent that Noah has run away because his mum is sadly ill and dying. The shopkeeper, by sharing stories from his past – some comical, some sombre – gently prompts Noah to return home.
Boyne maintains a lively pace by writing from three different viewpoints: Noah’s, the shopkeeper’s and the narrator’s.
There is a lovely twist at the end of the story when the true identity of the shopkeeper is revealed.
Themes: fantasy, fairy tale, childhood, a child’s response to grief.