The Runaways by Ulf Stark

The Runaways

Ulf Stark, Author

Kitty Crowther, Illustrator

Gecko Press, Fiction, Apr. 2, 2019

Pages: 144

Suitable for Ages: 6-11

Themes: Grandfather, Illness, Hospital, Lying, Runaways, Multigenerational families, Loss

Synopsis:

Grandpa is in the hospital and hating it. He swears at the nurses and makes trouble for everyone. Dad finds it too stressful to visit. But Gottfried Junior loves his Grandpa and visits him as often as he’s allowed, and when he’s not allowed, he goes anyway. He even sneaks him forbidden foods and beverages.

Grandpa thinks only of the place he was happiest — the island where he lived with Grandma. He wants to go back one last time, but they won’t let him out of the hospital.

Gottfried Junior and Grandpa take things into their own hands. If running away is the only way to the island, then they’ll be runaways.

Why I like this book:

I have to admit the title and cover of this book caught my eye. As I leafed through the pages, I knew that it would be a book that would resonate with children who have ailing grandparents and perhaps children who are ill. It’s packed with adventure, some clever planning, a good dose of humor, and sweet memories.

Every grandparent deserves a compassionate and loyal grandchild like Gottfried Junior, who outsmarts his parent to find ways to make secret trips to visit his grandpa at the hospital. Gottfried listens to his grumpy grandpa, his angry rants about the horrible food and being confined to a bed after he broke his leg twice. But Gottfried also remembers all the fun adventures he had with his grandpa. Together they hatch a plan to spring Grandpa from the hospital for two days, without Gottfried’s parents knowing.

The execution of the plan rests entirely on Gottfried, who arranges all of the details which include faking an overnight footbal trip; arranging the food; hiring a baker friend to help him wheel Grandpa out of the hospital and driving them to the dock to take a boat to the island. Everything goes off without a hitch, but Gottfried has to wrestle with “is it ever a good thing to lie sometimes?”

It is important for children to see how Gottfried’s grandpa handles the end of his life. He has one wish, to return to the home he built for his wife and spend time there remembering all the good in his life. In making the trip with Grandpa, Gottfried learns that death is not something to fear, that it’s important to remember joyful memories, and find closure with family members. I won’t spoil the beautiful ending.

The Runaways is written by Swedish author, Ulf Stark, and has been translated into English. It has a European feel to it, especially with the beautiful colored-pencil illustrations by Kitty Crowther that grace the chapters and give readers an additional experience.

Quote:

“I’d helped him get to the old house he’d built one last time. He’d been able to breathe in the smell of the sea. And I’d been down to the cellar and collected the last jar of lingonberry jam that he said somehow still had Grandma in it.” Page 72

Ulf Stark was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1944. He has written around thirty books for children and young adults, translated into more than twenty languages. He has won many prizes in Sweden and internationally, including the German Youth Literature Prize and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

The Lying King by Alex Beard

The Lying King

Alex Beard, Author and Illustrator

Green Leaf Book Group Press, Fiction, Sep. 4, 2018

Pages: 54

Suitable for Ages: 4 -9 (and adults)

Themes: Animals, Lying, Bullying, Stealing, Integrity, Honesty

Opening: There once was a king who liked to tell lies. He said it was day beneath the night skies.

Synopsis:

There was a warthog who wanted to be king.  He lied to feel big “a runt who wanted to be a huge pig.”  His lies were small in the beginning. When it rained outside, he said it was dry. But his lies became tall tales.  He was so full of himself that he  said he was great at whatever he did.  And he bullied others to make himself feel good.

Even though the other animals saw through his outrageous behavior, they remained silent and did nothing to stop the warthog from becoming king. Once in power, the king stole to pad his purse and called the most honest, cheaters. He turned his loyal subjects against one another until they didn’t know who they could trust. The king’s lies were so bold that they got out of hand, and no one believed a word the king said. Will animals stand up to him? Will the truth catch up with the king?

Why I like this book:

Beard’s contemporary tale is clever and entertaining and has lessons for everyone about integrity and being truthful, trustworthy and fair. For children, this is a timeless tale about how unacceptable it is to lie and what happens when lying gets out of control. It is a perfect book that will teach children the importance telling the truth and knowing when they are being lied to. For adults, it carries a socially relevant and important message for our times.

I LOVE the lively and whimsical watercolor illustrations in this story. They are appealing and humorous and will communicate the author’s message loud and clear. His use of white space makes the art stand out. I also like that the text is beautifully handwritten.

Resources: Use this book as a resource. Ask children why they think the warthog lied? Why didn’t the other animals call out the warthog? Why didn’t anyone stop the warthog when he bullied other animals?  What did they learn about the importance of telling the truth?  Play an honesty game with children where you create scenarios where they have to say what they would do.

Alex Beard is an artist and author. A NYC native, he lives in New Orleans’ Garden District in The Pink Elephant with his wife and two children, two dogs, a cat, three turtles, a hedgehog, and a pair of finches. Visit the author at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by Kathleen Carter Communications.