Noah Barleywater Runs Away, John Boyne

The book is described as a fairy tale. In the end, you will realize that the story is the sensitively, retold tale of a wonderful, imaginary character. It is told with subtle humor and simple truths and the conclusion will surprise you.
Noah Barleywater is a child who has to face problems beyond his years. To escape his fears, he decides to run away and have adventures. He is  leaving his loved ones behind and is running from the problems that he doesn’t want to face.
As he passes through successive towns, each with different magical experiences such as talking trees and animals, he is sometimes amazed and sometimes frightened. There are doors that move and speak, floors that shift and stairs that appear and disappear.
When Noah reaches a village with an unusual tree and an odd-looking house he decides to explore it. He enters the strangely shaped house and discovers that it is a toy shop. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a gentle old man appears. He is the toymaker and he invites the very hungry Noah, to have some lunch. Soon, Noah spies a wooden chest filled with puppets. He asks the toymaker to explain what each one signifies. As the toymaker tells the story of each puppet, we learn, through his memories, of the challenges he faced in life and how he dealt with them successfully in some cases, but in others he explains why he feels deep remorse for how things turned out.
Many issues are confronted such as friendship, bullying, loss, broken and fulfilled promises, cruelty and compassion, thoughtfulness and thoughtlessness, rudeness and good manners, being careful what you wish for, dreams and nightmares, illness, aging, loneliness, love, fear, family, risk taking, following and disobeying rules and shared joy with friends and family. It might seem like too many for one book to handle but they are dealt with so deftly that they are easy to comprehend and manage. Simple explanations prevent them from becoming too much for the reader.
I chuckled as I read along, smiling at the innocent descriptions which formed images in my mind, almost as if the eight year old Noah, was whispering in my ear. I found myself understanding the simple concepts presented and realizing that young readers will have moments when they simply think, “aha” so that is how I should deal with that kind of a circumstance…like when you are on a train and someone is talking too loud, you simply ignore them rather than make a scene by getting angry, or doing something kind for someone even though you would really rather be doing something else, because it is the right thing to do. The book is filled with these kinds of object lessons and they seem to occur very naturally without becoming too numerous or too unwieldy.
The simple drawings appear to be made by a young child about the same age as Noah. They perfectly complement this entertaining story about a child who learns to face his worst fears.
Although the story deals with a dreadfully, difficult problem, facing the death of a parent, that message does not come across as too overwhelming, because the message we get is really that we have to explore life, while we live it, and appreciate the moment with those we love, rather than dread what comes after it. The subject matter is very heavy, but it leaves us with hope because it also provides a philosophy to use to face life’s most awful difficulties.


About omasvoice

Who am I? I am you. I am everyone out there who loves to read and discuss and voice an opinion!
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Books for Children, Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

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