The Beginner's Guide to Running Away from Home is a tongue-in-cheek story about how and why kids should run away from home, told from the perspective of a young boy. Parents needn't worry, however. Things turn out ok.
Parenting aside: In retrospect, I wish that my daughter hadn't been with me when I opened the mail today. She insisted on reading this book immediately. And my gut feel is that she's not old enough to understand it. Now, we read lots of books that she's not technically old enough for. I am certainly not a stickler for age range. But I don't really love the idea of a book putting the idea of running away from home into her head. I think that she was baffled by the whole thing (she is similarly baffled by books about adoption. "But why?"). But now she knows, at age 3, that running away from home is something that kids think about. Ah well. I guess she would have come to it eventually.
But back to the book. Red Nose Studio's illustrations are unique and distinctive. They are "hand-built, three-dimensional sets shot with a Canon digital SLR camera grafted onto the back of a Horseman 4x5 camera. The line art was drawn with graphite on paper." So basically there are photos of little dioramas of clay people. I think it's a very cool style. Sort of a modern take on the Rankin and Bass Christmas specials from the 1970s. But ... the people all seem highly unattractive to me, including the protagonist. The baby is generally open-mouthed and screaming, and the older brother looks positively evil. My daughter seemed to enjoy these illustrations, and I think that they are interesting, but I personally don't care for them at all.
Huget's text, however, is quite funny. Like this:
"You're too grown-up for a stuffed animal, but take your favorite one anyway. That will show your parents you mean business.
And you'll need a pillow and a blanket. But no pajamas. Out on your own, you get to sleep in your clothes.
Save room for a bow and arrow. In case there are bears."
"You're ready to storm out of the house!
Stomp your feet and make lots of noise.
Then holler that line you practiced earlier. See if you can work in a little sob."
It's all from the perspective of the put-upon kid. He's not as cute as his baby sister. He doesn't get the privileges that his older brother does. And when his mom throws out his collection of old candy wrappers - look out!
I like that the boy comes to his own realization about heading back home after he runs away. There's no convenient third party that talks him into it, or anything like that. His parents, wisely, let him go, trusting that he won't get too far.
The Beginner's Guide to Running Away from Home takes a classic, universal theme and adds irreverent humor and eye-popping illustrations. I think it will fly off the library shelves this summer. I think that it's most suitable to the older end of the picture book range, six to eight year olds, who will be best able to relate to the issues discussed.
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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