Monday, June 27, 2011

Noah Barleywater Runs Away, by John Boyne- Review

This is one of those stories that is equal parts fun and a bit dull.  Fun because it's a bit wacky and mysterious, dull because it drags a bit. 

Drag you say? But is it not only a 240 page book??!  That's right, it is, and it does.

I feel like Noah Barleywater Runs Away would have been more suited to a small children's picture book then a middle school novel.  The adventures lend themselves nicely to the tiny amount of illustration on the chapter headers and I feel like a lot of what was told to you could have been shown to you more effectively.
Which isn't to say I disliked Noah Barleywater Runs Away, only that I found it hard to be engrossed in it.  And if I can't be engrossed in it, how's it going to capture the attention of sugar buzzed 10 year old who'd rather be playing a video game?

The general gist of the story is this, Noah Barleywater gets up so early one morning that it can almost be considered late, and runs away from home.  After a half day of running away he comes upon a mysterious toy shop full of puppets, and a puppet maker with the most unusual tales of adventure Noah has ever heard.  So as they sit down to share a meal, Noah and the Puppet maker begin to share their stories only to realize they have a lot in common.

The crux of the story is Noah's mom, and it's gradually revealed she's dying.  I suppose that makes it a nice gift for a grieving child? God that's depressing to even suggest, but otherwise I'm not entirely sure about the audience for this book.  On the one hand it has all these fun little adventure stories to it, on the other both Noah and the Puppet maker have some depressing stories about the loss of your parent.  It ties up nicely in the end, with a sudo happy ending, but honestly this is a book about grief and loss.

In the end I was left with the strange feeling of "boy that was depressing" coupled with "it was kind of cute?". 

Although I know of the Boy in the Stripped Pajamas, I haven't actually read any of John Boyne's work before, therefore I would be really interested in what a John Boyne fan would have to say about Noah Barleywater.

Noah Barleywater Runs Away, By John Boyne
Published by David Fickling Books, May 2011
My copy was sent to me by the kind folks at Random House Canada
Buy Noah Barleywater Runs Away on Amazon


  1. I've read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Mutiny on the Bounty and I loved both of them, even though they are both very different stories and narrative styles, they have young, innocent male narrators, so it seems to be that this is a common motif in his work. I haven't read this one, but I am intrigued, mostly because I've enjoyed the other two books as much as I did.

  2. Interesting, yes Noah had a charming innocence to him.