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Noah Barleywater Runs Away

Noah Barleywater Runs Away

3.9 11
by John Boyne, Oliver Jeffers (Illustrator)

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Eight-year-old Noah's problems seem easier to deal with if he doesn't think about them. So he runs away, taking an untrodden path through the forest.

Before long, he comes across a shop. But this is no ordinary shop: it's a toyshop, full of the most amazing toys, and brimming with the most wonderful magic. And here Noah meets a very unusual toymaker. The


Eight-year-old Noah's problems seem easier to deal with if he doesn't think about them. So he runs away, taking an untrodden path through the forest.

Before long, he comes across a shop. But this is no ordinary shop: it's a toyshop, full of the most amazing toys, and brimming with the most wonderful magic. And here Noah meets a very unusual toymaker. The toymaker has a story to tell, and it's a story of adventure and wonder and broken promises. He takes Noah on a journey. A journey that will change his life.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At age eight, Noah Barleywater runs away from home. He is "the seventh cleverest boy" in his class and has "read 14 books from cover to cover" but does not consider these achievements sufficient, and seeks adventure. On his journey, which has strong shades of Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth, he travels through quirky villages—in one, when he picks apples, it is considered a serious crime, and the tree and apples are rushed to the hospital—before meeting a dachshund and a donkey, who point him to a magical toyshop. There he meets an old man, his friends, and many intricate puppets, which represent figures from the man's past. As the old man shares his stories, which touch on themes of courage, selflessness, and keeping promises, Noah opens up about his own family's struggles. Though the magical elements in this carpe diem tale are loosely bound by a meandering thread, Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) touchingly conveys Noah's emotional development from a boy in denial of painful realities to a young man who accepts that which can't be changed. Ages 8–12. (May)
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
It is important to note that this book is presented as a fairy tale. I did not realize that at first and was quite put off by the first few chapters. But a look at the title page specifically introduced the book as a fairy tale, and that made it much easier for me to respond to a story that has Noah, the main character, running away from home and meeting a strange combination of people, animals, and objects. The strangest is an old toymaker who shares with Noah his adventures as a young boy; a fabulous runner as a child, the old man tells of his dreams as well as his joys and failings, especially connected to his father, a woodcarver (and can you guess what other story this one is using to help Noah understand life and the folly of running from one's fears?). Over the course of the story, we find out that Noah's mother is very ill, and that Noah's fear of the unknown is what causes him to run away from home. The story works very well as a fairy tale and should draw younger readers in to the adventure. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—John Boyne, the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006), again explores the theme of personal regrets in this odd but affecting story (2011, both David Fickling Books). Noah, 8, runs away from his home at the edge of a forest. The woods contain magical elements such as a talking dachshund and a hungry donkey near a rather strange tree. He comes upon a wondrous shop full of beautifully crafted wooden toys. Noah enters the shop and notices that the dolls appear to move and speak. He meets the owner, an unnamed old man, and they begin a lengthy conversation involving personal histories and the reason Noah ran away from what seems to be a loving family. Boyne gradually leaves clues about the identity of the old man who wrestles with regret over his treatment of his beloved father and about the reason Noah has run away. Inspired by the old man's regret and shame, Noah eventually decides to return home. Andrew Sachs is a marvelous narrator, perfectly voicing accents and emotions. Although the publisher indicates the book is intended for elementary grade students, young children will not pick up on the clues as to the old man's identity and the tragedy Noah must face is pretty intense. The writing is lovely and the narration superb, but this may require older listeners.—B. Allison Gray, Goleta Public Library, Santa Barbara, CA
Lois Lowry
In this charming and cleverly plotted story that tiptoes with humor and compassion, two characters teach each other how to grieve, how to forgive, and how, eventually, to remember what has been lost.
—The New York Times

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
960L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Noah Barleywater left home in the early morning, before the sun rose, before the dogs woke, before the dew stopped falling on the fields.

He climbed out of bed and shuffled into the clothes he’d laid out the night before, holding his breath as he crept quietly downstairs. Three of the steps had a loud creak in them where the wood didn’t knit together correctly so he walked very softly on each one, desperate to make as little noise as possible.

In the hallway he took his coat off the hook but didn’t put his shoes on until he had already left the house. He walked down the laneway, opened the gate, went through and closed it again, treading as lightly as he could in case his parents heard the sound of the gravel crunching beneath his feet and came downstairs to investigate.

It was still dark at this hour and Noah had to squint to make out the road that twisted and turned up ahead. The growing light would allow him to sense any danger that might be lurking in the shadows. When he got to the end of the first quarter-mile, at just that point where he could turn round one last time and still make out his home in the distance, he stared at the smoke rising from the chimney that stretched upwards from the kitchen fireplace and thought of his family inside, all safely tucked up in their beds, unaware that he was leaving them for ever. And despite himself, he felt a little sad.

Am I doing the right thing? he wondered, a great blanket of happy memories trying to break through and smother the fresher, sadder ones.

But he had no choice. He couldn’t bear to stay any longer. No one could blame him for that, surely. Anyway, it was probably best that he went out to make his own way in the world. After all, he was already eight years old and the truth was, he hadn’t really done anything with his life so far.

A boy in his class, Charlie Charlton, had appeared in the local newspaper when he was only seven, because the Queen had come to open a day centre for all the grannies and granddads in the village, and he had been chosen to hand her a bunch of flowers and say, We’re SO delighted you could make the journey, ma’am. A photograph had been taken where Charlie was grinning like the Cheshire cat as he presented the bouquet, and the Queen wore an expression that suggested she had smelled something funny but was far too well-brought-up to comment on it; he’d seen that expression on the Queen’s face before and it always made him giggle. The photo had been placed on the school notice board the following day and had remained there until someone – not Noah – had drawn a moustache on Her Majesty’s face and written some rude words in a speech bubble coming out of her mouth that nearly gave the headmaster, Mr Tushingham, a stroke.

The whole thing had caused a terrible scandal, but at least Charlie Charlton had got his face in the papers and been the toast of the schoolyard for a few days. What had Noah ever done with his life to compare with that? Nothing. Why, only a few days before he’d tried to make a list of all his achievements, and this is what he’d come up with:
1. I have read fourteen books from cover to cover.
2. I won the bronze medal in the 500 metres at Sports Day last year and would have won silver if Breiffni O’Neill hadn’t jumped the gun and got a head start.
3. I know the capital of Portugal. (It’s Lisbon.)
4. I may be small for my age but I’m the seventh cleverest boy in my class.
5. I am an excellent speller.
Five achievements at eight years of age, he thought at the time, shaking his head and pressing the tip of his pencil to his tongue even though his teacher, Miss Bright, screamed whenever anyone did that and said they would get lead poisoning. That’s one achievement for every . . . He thought about it and did a series of quick calculations on a bit of scrap paper. One achievement for every one year, seven months and six days. Not very impressive at all.

He tried to tell himself that this was the reason he was leaving home, because it seemed a lot more adventurous than the real reason, which was something he didn’t want to think about. Not this early in the morning, anyway.

And so here he was, out on his own, a young soldier on his way to battle. He turned round, thinking to himself, That’s it! I’ll never see that house again now! and continued on his way, strolling along with the air of a man who knows that, come the next election, there’s every chance he will be elected mayor. It was important to look confident – he realized that very early on. After all, there was a terrible tendency among adults to look at children travelling alone as if they were planning a crime of some sort. None of them ever thought that it might just be a young chap on his way to see the world and have a great adventure. They were so small-minded, grown-ups. That was one of their many problems.

Meet the Author

JOHN BOYNE was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of six novels for adults. His first novel for children, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award and has been made into a film. His novels are published in over 30 languages. He lives in Dublin. Visit him on the Web at JohnBoyne.com.

OLIVER JEFFERS is an internationally acclaimed author-illustrator. His first picture book, How to Catch a Star (HarperCollins) was published in 2004 and since then he has created a further five picture books to much critical acclaim. He has won the Irish Book Award (where he first met John Boyne), the Blue Peter Book of the Year and the Nestlé Children's Book Prize as well as a host of shortlistings including the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal. His books have been translated into 19 languages. To learn more about him and his work, please visit OliverJeffers.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Noah Barleywater Runs Away 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Valca85 More than 1 year ago
I received this book for free as a galley. It's a children's book and I don't usually read stories meant for such a young audience, but I am so glad I made an exception for this one. It was beautiful. The main point of the story is to make a child understand and cope with death, a difficult subject to say the least. The writing is spectacular, fresh enough to captivate young audiences, but ripe with meaning for adults to also enjoy. The world and the cast of characters that he creates, among them a talking daschund and a donkey who is always hungry, is so special the reader feels a bit sad to have to leave it behind when the book ends. Noah, the main character, is a perceptive child, sensitive and he feels the change that's about to come in his life with the death of his loved one. His whole adventure is handled with such tenderness and care that I think this is one book I'll be rereading. I highly recommend this book for children, teens, and adults.
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
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.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
Noah Barleywater is like many of us. When things get too tough to face, we want to run away from them. Noah is only eight years old when he decides to run away leaving his mom and dad. He is not very prepared for what the world has in store for him. By the time he has gone two towns over and through the woods, he is experiencing a touch of doubt and a rather large hunger. Guided by a talking donkey and an equally loquacious dachshund, he finds a ramshackle cottage that doubles as a toy store. Noah is at first nervous when he meets the old man who owns the shop. It doesn't take long to see that the shop is full of many unexpected surprises included talking clocks and walking doors. Noah is most intrigued by a chest full of puppets that were carved by the old man's father. The tale behind the puppets recounts the life of the old man when he was a young lad. It is a story that Noah finds has many lessons which can be applied to his own life. The book is very charming. The lessons Noah learns will have a heartfelt meaning for many children. Younger readers may miss some of the subtleties of the tale, but young and old will relate to the revelations at the end of this captivating story. This book provided for review by the well read folks at David Fickling Books and Random House Children's Books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my favorites it is exiting and sad i would recomend it to anyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pictures ini t?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alicia Burns More than 1 year ago
Its a great reading tool but froze 2 in 45 minutes...otherwise amazing!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my friends says it's weird and stupid and my other friend says it's amazing! GRRRRRRRRRRRRR
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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