NOAH BARLEYWATER RUNS AWAY by John Boyne (David Fickling Books, May 2011) will be a book that will stay with you long after the last page is turned with a satisfied sigh. As he proved in THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS, Boyne can tell a story that, on the surface, seems rather simple and straightforward. It is not long into the reading of NOAH BARLEYWATER, though, that the reader senses there is something lurking not too far below the surface here. Noah runs away one morning from his home thinking, as children do, that he will leave his problems behind (and we will learn what these problems are a bit later in the narrative). He takes a path through the forest and stops in a village hoping that someone has left a pie to cool on the window sill as often happens in the books he has read. Sadly, that is not the case in the first town or the second. Instead, Noah is forced to flee from them both. When he arrives in the third town, he is greeted by a daschund and a donkey and told the tale of the toy shop that stands in the shade of an enormous tree, a tree whose branches grow back within days of being stripped. Intrigued? Well, this is just the opening gambit of Noah's story. There is much more to be revealed a piece at a time. Maddening? Nope. Like Noah, I enjoyed lingering in the toy shop and discovering along with Noah what takes place within its less-than-squared walls. <95>
This book begs to be read aloud. It has stories within stories, archetypes, ancient tales retold and much more. Put this one on your order list now and plan to spend some lovely time with Noah Barleywater on his magical journey away from home and back home again. I am still thinking about the reading ladder rungs for this one. Feel free to contribute ideas in the comments. I do know I would use the film Mr. Magorian's Magic Emporium and another title I do not want to reveal here since it might spoil some of the reading.