One day, eight year-old Noah Barleywater runs away from his home and his problems. Before long, Noah has been branded an apple thief and encountered a grumpy adult, a hungry donkey and a helpful dachsund. Most amazing of all however, is Noah’s discovery of a magic oak tree and the toyshop that lies beyond it. There, Noah is greeted by an old toymaker every bit as mysterious and magical as the toyshop itself, a toymaker whose stories will change Noah’s life forever.
Noah Barleywater marks John Boyne’s return to children’s fiction after the success of his deservedly celebrated first novel, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I do not want to give too much away about the plot as there are a few secrets that some readers may want to uncover for themselves. One thing that I can say is that Noah Barleywater not only met but surpassed my expectations from an author of Boyne’s calibre. The book has been called and marketed as a “fairytale” and it is my opinion that Boyne’s enchanting prose could not be described as anything less. However, while the vocabulary of a nine year-old may be able to cope with the language used in the book (as well as be enriched by it), Noah’s “problems” require an older, more mature, audience. The theme of death and its effects on family is explored. Also the imagery and metaphors used would be lost to a younger audience. In order to be able to fully appreciate this book and all its meaning, I would recommend it be read by teenagers and adults from the ages of fifteen onwards. It is comparable to Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince which, while its story can be appreciated as a fairytale by younger audiences, has infinite value for older readers.
Maryana Garcia is the eldest of four sisters. A student at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, she plans to major in History and is currently an employee at the Mount Albert Community Library.