Runaways (The Runaways)


The Runaways is an inter-generational adventure filled with warmth and humor from one of the world's great writers for children.

Grandpa hates being in hospital. He thinks only of the place he was happiest―the island where he used to live. He wants to go back, but they won't let him out of the hospital.

So Gottfried Junior, his namesake, helps Grandpa make a plan to run away. They think of everything. Their deception is so complete that when Gottfried Junior finally decides to tell the truth, no one believes him.--from the publisher

144 pages 978-1776572335 Ages 8-11

Keywords: lying, telling the truth, relationships, grandfather, multigenerational, adventure, running away, feelings, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, heartfelt, helping others, understanding others, sensitivity, growing old, compassion, empathy, kindness


“We were prisoners of love, a love in chains

He was standin’ in the door, I was standin’ in the rain

With the same hot blood burning in our veins

Adam raised a Cain”

-- Bruce Springsteen (1978)

“The whole thing was a great big bluff.

Grandpa would be in trouble because he should know better.

And I would almost certainly have to sit in the interrogation chair. That was the brown leather armchair in one corner of the living room. Dad usually sat in it when he was shaving. But if I’d done something unthinkable (that’s what Dad called it) then I was placed in it.

I was perfectly sure that running away with Grandpa was unthinkable. I could already smell the leather of the chair.

‘How could you do something so incredibly unthinkable?’ my father would say.

Dad is a world master in unusual words. And that was a good thing because I learned a lot of new ones.

The bad ones from Grandpa. The big ones from Dad.

But had I really done something so incredibly unthinkable? I’d thought of others. I’d made Grandpa happy.

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 jar of lingonberry jam that he said somehow still had Grandma in it.

It was true that I’d lied. But if I hadn’t, he would never have gone out. Not to sea. Not to his house. And he wouldn’t have been able to burn his old suit. Because Dad wouldn’t have let him do any of that. He would have had to stay in his bed with the pillow behind his back being bored and pushing the alarm button just for something to do.

Now he sat and looked out through the window at the islands gliding past. And his cheeks weren’t as grey as they’d been in the hospital room.

`Grandpa, is it a good thing to lie sometimes?’

‘What did you say?’

He was still thinking about his things.

‘Can it ever be good to lie?’

‘Yes,’ he said after a while. ‘Sometimes lying is the only way to be completely truthful.’”

Gottfried Junior has an uncomfortable relationship with his father, but feels a real kinship with his foul-mouthed paternal grandfather, who is a former seaman. Unfortunately, Grandpa is in tough shape: His beloved wife has died, he’s broken and then re-injured his leg, his heart is on its last legs, and now he’s stuck in the hospital, purposely causing trouble to relieve his restlessness and boredom.

Gottfried Junior’s dad has an uncomfortable relationship with Grandpa, and is reluctant to visit him. Frustrated over the infrequency of the visits, Gottfried Junior tells lies in order to travel alone by public transit and visit Grandpa in the hospital. Once there, the pair hatch a complicated plot to spring Grandpa from the hospital for a weekend in order to permit him to make one last visit to his beloved house on the island.

THE RUNAWAYS is a fun and moving adventure story about the gift of a weekend that Gottfried Junior and Grandpa share with one another. It’s a relatively quick read that has left me thinking about familial relationships, and the interesting ethical complexities relating to the lying.

As one who has now been on both ends of loving grandfather-grandchild relationships, I highly recommend this memorable tale for nine- to twelve-year-olds.

144 pages                      978-1-776572-33-5                     Ages 9-12

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

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