Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne

Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne beings, unsurprisingly, with young Noah Barleywater running away from home. Noah heads into the forest, on an unknown path, walking away from his problems. He is eight years old and ready for adventure. Noah ends up at an extraordinary toyshop with a very unusual toymaker, and that's when things begin to get strange. Both Noah and the toymaker have stories to tell, and as they travel with each other on the journeys that lead them to meet, each may have a valuable lesson to teach the other.

Noah Barleywater Runs Away is a whimsical novel, and this time, unlike when Boyne dabbled in historical fiction with his bestselling (but not well received by me) novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, it really suits the story. Although both books have moments of happiness mixed with sadness, in this instance it felt natural instead of contrived and melodramatic.

Although I initially mistook Noah Barleywater Runs Away for YA, this is definitely a children's novel that an adult with a longing for magic can enjoy as well. There are also a few pictures throughout the book and I thought they were cute and suited the story well. This is the kind of book you could read out loud to a child, or if they were a bit older they could begin to read themselves. The language and the story are not complex, but Boyne's writing is rich and filled hidden magic that brings it to life. As a note, at times it can be a little dark, and so it may not be appropriate for very young children, that is something a parent would have to read and decide. 

I loved how Boyne made everything come to life in Noah Barleywater Runs Away, from the one door that the toymaker can afford that is forced to run up and down the stairs when it is needed, to the floorboards that move when a person walks across them, this book is full of ordinary and mysterious magic. Noah felt like a believable eight year old boy, and although his story was an unfortunate one, it is far too common and there are many children who are bound to relate. Running away from our problems is a longing many people have no matter how old and so in that way Noah Barleywater Runs Away is universal in its simplicity and message.

Noah Barleywater Runs Away is a twist on an old fairytale, and although hints are dropped throughout it is still wonderful when Boyne finally reveals the inspiration and the pieces come together. The story is told like a fable, and so the style is slightly traditional, but I thought Boyne's language and description was perfect for it. On the surface, Noah Barleywater Runs Away is a children's fairytale, but beneath that there are layers of metaphor that an older reader can uncover and appreciate as well, resulting in magical story tinged with sadness and redemption.

Release Date: September 30th, 2010
Pages: 240
: Publisher

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