Now that I have read it, however, I can say I really did enjoy Noah Barleywater runs away. This is a brilliant storytelling using the story of Pinocchio woven into the story of why Noah has run away. I must confess that while I think I "know" the story of Pinocchio I have no memory of actually reading this famous story so that will be my next book. Luckily I own a wonderful version illustrated by Roberto Innocenti.
Noah runs away travelling through two strange and unwelcoming villages where he witness very odd things such as a moving apple tree that begs him not to take its fruit. When he reaches the third village he meets a talking donkey, a helpful dachshund and a man in a toy shop. The toy shop is a magical place. Every toy is handmade from wood and most special of all the shop is filled with hundreds of puppets. The building is oddly shaped and positioned beside a very special tree that seems to be almost hypnotic. Noah enters the shop and spends the whole day with the toy maker. The two of them take turns to tell their own life story. The toy maker has had a very eventful life beginning with absolutely horrid bullying in school and then the discovery that he is an outstanding runner. His running takes him on an adventure around the world. Noah talks about his family and in particular his mother who has organised the most wonderful and memorable outings for Noah over the last few weeks. As Noah reveals more and more of his story the curiosity of the Toymaker grows and grows as he tries to discover why Noah has run away especially when everything he describes seems to point to a loving family.
Here is a description of the toys :
"There were houses and villages, boats and trucks, every conceivable toy that an interested mind like his could dream of - and every one of them was made of solid, dark wood which seemed to give off a glow of richness and, yes, even a sort of distant hum. ... Almost everything was painted carefully - and not with just any old colours either, like the toys he had at home ...These were colours he'd never even seen before; ones he couldn't possibly even begin to name."
Reading this book is a wonderful experience. I especially loved the quirky shop with its moving door called Henry and the real cuckoo cuckoo clock. This book will probably be very different from any you have ever encountered but this is a book I highly recommend for middle and senior primary students. One reviewer quoted inside the front cover said : "a carefully crafted, whimsical gem."
Here is a detailed review by Lois Lowry writing in the New York Times. Take a look at the author web site.
Here is a comment from The Australian newspaper :
Quality novels for primary school-age children are quite hard to find, so this book is very appealing. There are many worthwhile series books, often filling important niches, but the inimitable stand-alone novel is rare.