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I've been waiting for a new children's book by John Boyne ever since I first read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which is one of my all-time favourites. The wait was so worth it, because Noah Barleywater Runs Away is fantastic. It's unpredictable and beautifully written, with a main character you will fall in love with. It also includes fantastic illustrations by Oliver Jeffers, which compliment the story really well.

8-year-old Noah Barleywater, an innocent and determined young boy, runs away from home because he wants to experience the world and have adventures. At first I thought this was the whole point of the story, and I wasn't expecting the journey I was taken on, or the conclusion Noah's tale reached. On his travels through the villages, he meets talking animals (I loved this aspect of the story, it was very Narnian), a beautiful tree and an enigmatic old man who lives in an amazing toy shop. During his day with the old man, Noah learns some valuable life lessons, and gains a new friend in the process.

The old man's story unravels chapter by chapter, as he delves deeper into his memories to show Noah that not everything in life is as it seems. He subtly imparts wisdom and advice, while talking fondly of his father and relaying his own childhood as a famous Olympic runner. Interspersed with the old man's story is Noah's account of his own life as an 8-year-old, complete with revelations and admittances that are sure to make many a reader find tears in their eyes.

Noah Barleywater Runs Away is a lovely story wrapped in magic and fairytale, and has reminded me how much I love John Boyne's writing. Readers of all ages will find something charming about this story, and it'll make you think about your own actions and how time moves a lot quicker than we think. I highly recommend it to everyone, whether you're old, young or just an 8-year-old boy looking for an adventure.
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on 9 October 2010
Reading Noah Barleywater Runs Away is an unusual experience. Quite unlike anything else I've read, it's a work of art. Part coming-of-age story, part fable, the second children's book from John Boyne will also be of interest to older readers.

Eight-year-old Noah is our protagonist. He's a boy running away from home for the first time - away from something he doesn't even want to think about. As he runs, Noah enters a world that's straight out of the pages of a child's storybook. On the surface, it's a vivid and enchanting land where anything can happen; where animals talk and trees object to a presumptuous boy swiping their fruits for a snack. But when Noah's journey brings him to a mysterious toyshop, and we meet the old man who lives there, it becomes clear that there is far more to this adventure than pure whimsy. Noah's acquaintance is strangely familiar, and we gradually realise that he's not just any toymaker. His story is in some ways the flipside of Noah's, and the young runaway needs to hear what he has to say.

Sensitively drawn, Noah possesses all the widsom of a real eight-year-old boy. The further we get from our own childhoods, the easier it is to forget how aware we were of the complexities of our lives in those days; this book reminds us. While I would usually hesitate to read a book about a protagonist this young, particularly a boy (having never been one), I found Noah astute and inquisitive and impossible not to relate to. In some ways Noah Barleywater Runs Away is a coming-of-age story, as it deals with a chapter in his life when he has to face essential truths about the human condition a little earlier than most. The magic realism of the world he enters may be spellbinding, but he's also a character bidding farewell to part of his childhood. While I have to confess I did find myself moved to tears on several occcasions while reading, it's not by any means a bleak tale. It's honest and hopeful. It's about real life.

Noah Barleywater Runs Away is a modern children's classic in the making. Beautiful and moving and rare, it will resonate with readers of ages because its subject matter is universal. At some point, we will all have to undertake a journey like Noah's - to learn what he learns for ourselves - and that's what makes it so poignant. I'd urge everyone to step outside their reading comfort zones and give this one a try
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on 15 January 2011
So we all know I'm prone to shedding a few tears now and then. In fact, I'm starting to think Random House actually hate me, which is why they keep releasing books that make me cry buckets. We had Trash, we had Half Brother, Boys Don't Cry (boys may not but Carly certainly does cry) and Tall Story - to name a very small selection. Well, Noah Barleywater really takes the biscuit when it comes to reducing me to a blubbering wreck. I finished this book in the bath, surrounding by bubbles, weeping for all I was worth. In fact, I was wailing to the extent that my boyfriend and puppy had to comfort me while I sat covered in tears and bubbles. And snot. Still in the bath.

I think Noah Barleywater Runs Away is a book best enjoyed if you go in blind, like I did. I'd heard a couple of people raving about it but I didn't know any of the details. I think that's best. This book is such a delicious treat that you should experience it for yourself so I'm not going to give away any of the specifics.

Noah runs away from home early one morning to escape the problems in his life and the story we read is of his adventures and the people he meets on his journey. Enter a talking Dachshund, a very hungry donkey, an overemotional apple tree and a magical toy shop. To be honest, that's all you need to know.

You may (or may not) know that John Boyne is the writer of the utterly brilliant The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Well, as much as I love that story, I honestly think Noah Barleywater trumps it. Absolutely everything I want from a book is included in this novel - we have genuinely funny instances, fantastic writing, characters I will never forget and some of the most heartbreaking moments I've ever read in a book. Perfect.

Boyne is a world class writer and, to highlight that fact, I want to share a few (spoiler free) quotations from Noah Barleywater just to convince you that this is one book you have to read this year:

* "`...I like "a" very much, but I've never been much of a one for "toy shop". I've always quite liked the word "resilient" myself. An ability to weather trouble without succumbing. I feel that's a word you might think about a little, young man.'
`I like "fresh fruit flan",' said the donkey. `Three excellent words.'"

* "`And my rifle,' snarled the King, his eyebrows bouncing up and down furiously. `There's a new stag in the park. Magnificent creature. Thing of extraordinary beauty. I want to shoot it.'"

* "`Ah, the cricket,' said the old man in delight. `A fine fellow whom I mistreated badly.'
`Really?' asked Noah. `What did you do to him?'
`I smashed him against the wall with a wooden hammer and killed him.'
Noah's mouth opened wide in horror. `Why?' he asked. `Why would you do such a thing?'
`He accused me of having a wooden head. I may have' - the old man glanced around and looked a little ashamed of himself - `I may have over-reacted slightly...'"
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on 24 October 2010
When I started this book, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. By the time I read the last page and closed the covers, I had a smile on my face, tears in my eyes and a sigh on my lips. Quite a turnaround!

It is certainly a strange little book, though everything grows steadily clearer as the story progresses. It opens with Noah Barleywater, an eight year-old boy, leaving his house at sunrise and running away in search of adventures. He doesn't think he has achieved enough in his life, so off he walks in search of greater things. After a few bizarre encounters in the first and second villages he passes through, he arrives in a strange little hamlet in the forest, dominated by an enormous tree and a tumbledown toy shop.

Intrigued and strangely compelled, he goes into the shop, even though he knows he can't afford to buy anything. All around him are wooden toys and hundreds of slightly menacing puppets - but before he can get too scared, the kindly old toymaker appears, welcoming Noah warmly into his home. Over a wonderful lunch, the mysterious toymaker tells Noah about his life, and gradually extracts Noah's own tale, and the real reason for the little boy running away. Their magical day together will change both their lives forever...

I really wasn't keen on the story to start with. It seemed overly weird, in a kind of 'Alice in Wonderland' way, filled with nonsensical contradictions and surreal moments. It almost screams out for an adaptation by Tim Burton or Guillermo del Toro, and perhaps some of the magical things that happen to Noah would, in fact, be easier to visualise through film. It also makes it hard to know where I'd pitch the book; although it is being marketed for children and young adults, the surrealism is quite pronounced in places, and there are touches of a deliciously subtle satirical humour that I think would go over most youngsters' heads.

Despite my initial scepticism, as the pages went by I found myself as compelled as Noah - I started to adapt to the style of storytelling and my curiosity was aroused: what was really happening in Noah's family? Who was the mysterious toymaker? What was the story behind his toy shop? Everything started to make sense the further I read, and each thread was tied up beautifully by the end. The illustrations by Oliver Jeffers are charmingly simplistic, and once again Boyne excels at writing with the poignant voice of an innocent little boy.

I'd definitely recommend giving this book a try. Just don't give up without allowing yourself time to become immersed in the magic - you'll be missing a treat!
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This tells the story of Noah, aged 8, who gets up one morning and leaves his perfectly nice life to run away. It is not clear what Noah is running away from until about half way through the book, at which point things begin to slide into place and the whole thing makes a lot more sense. Eventually Noah arrives at the door of an enchanted toy shop where he meets the elderly man who makes all the toys in the shop out of wood from a magical tree. Noah and the man start to swap life stories, and as they do you realise what is happening to Noah and who the old man is. I do not want to give any more of this story away, as the sense of discovery is partly what makes the book work. I will say that it does help if you have a basic knowledge of the classic Italian fairy tale of Pinocchio, or the book is not going to make much sense to you at all. The book is well written and Boyne writes convincingly about how an eight year old views the world. I like some of the more magical/surreal touches. On the whole though I didn't warm to the book, but that is because I actually hate the story of Pinocchio and had I known the stories were linked I probably wouldn't have chosen to read it in the first place.
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on 27 September 2013
I thought this book was a bit too random for starts. It was very imaginative, but sometimes a bit over the top. It's not very descriptive at all and sometimes the storyline became a bit boring, but the characters are interesting and kept me going throughout the book. Not a page turner for me but the characters and their personalities made up for that.

I fell in love with the innocence of Noah. The rest of the characters were a bit to weird for me. They were interesting but I just didn't like their personalities that much. The story line was creative, but I wanted something more to hold my attention. I was never fully hooked in on the story and that was a bit if a let down.

Overall, the interesting characters and the creativeness of this book is what kept me going. Their overall storyline and the lack of normality turned me off. I won't be reading this again, but it was a fun read.
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on 18 July 2014
I borrowed this book from the library as part of the public libraries' Summer Reading Challenge (I was allowed to join as an adult because I am a Patron of Reading). Well written (so had to give it 3 stars for that) but too odd, and too heartbreaking towards the end. I did not enjoy this book at all.
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on 14 February 2014
This was a very good book. I didn't give it five stars because it started off a little bit confusing. It got so much better though and really touched my heart.
All of the stories the old man and Noah said were wonderful. It also held a moral of "Living with what you've got" and "Be careful what you wish for"
The ending is wonderful.
It is a life-enhancing book.
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VINE VOICEon 13 June 2014
Noah runs away one early morning because he wants to see the world. Is that true? Could there be another reason? He eventually meet an eccentric toymaker, who has a better story than Noah to tell. It wasn't long before I guessed the old man's real identity, and that made the book all the more charming for me. Easy style, lovely story.
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on 17 March 2013
This book was mostly a bit odd and eccentric, just like the characters in this story. Not only was it weird it was like a modern day fairy tale. I have to admit, it was hard to understand at times, but I did have it read in the space of two days. It's not bad if you are looking for an enhancing read.
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