HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Barney and the Runaway
Author: Max Elliot Anderson
Cover Illustrator: Colin Kernes
Publisher: Comfort Publishing, 2011
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 10-12
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Anderson, Max Elliot. Barney and the Runaway (published in 2011 by Comfort Publishing LLC, P. O. Box 6265, Concord, NC 28027). Did you ever want to run away and join the circus? Did you ever actually try it? Michael Ellis lives in Independence, MO, is waiting for his twelfth birthday, and has recently told his dad and mom that he wants to be called Mike from now on. But he has problems in school with not doing his work, and his parents always seem to be correcting him and telling him what to do, so he decides to teach them all a lesson by pretending to run away with his dog Barney. The two sneak out one night, planning to stay only long enough to scare his parents and make them appreciate him more, but the plan goes awry.
Mike and Barney climb into a railroad boxcar full of hay to spend the night, but they fall asleep and end up in Georgia with a circus. Fortunately, they are discovered by Big Bob the Clown and are taken to safety in his wagon. Big Bob tries to encourage the boy to get in touch with his parents, but Mike refuses. Barney is a smart dog, and his tricks earn him and Mike a part in the clown show at the circus. Mike begins to think that living and performing with the circus might be the answer to his problems. Meanwhile, someone is trying to sabotage the circus, and their plans might hurt Mike and Barney. Is there anything that they can do to thwart the plot? And will Mike learn anything from the story of Big Bob’s own unfortunate past that will help him understand that his parents truly love him?
Author Max Elliot Anderson grew up as a struggling, reluctant reader and knows exactly what will grab the attention of “tween” boys. I did this book as a read aloud for our fourteen-year-old son (of course, he reads a lot on his own, but we still like to do reading aloud too) who said that it is great. There is much to commend it. Of course, it is filled with action, mystery, and excitement that will keep both boys and girls turning the pages to see what happens next. But there are also important lessons that children will be able to discern along with Mike, such as the importance of family and the fact that we often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. One thing which I especially like is Big Bob’s belief that God brought Mike to him so that he could explain what had happened to him as a youngster and help the boy understand his own situation better. Barney and the Runaway is a marvelous adventure book for young people that gets kudos from me.