4 stars out of 5
Abandonment, fear, jealousy, loneliness, anger, self-reliance, bullying, love, acceptance, responsibility. All those feelings and emotions and more are dealt with in this book, a winner of the 2014 IPPY Gold Medal for Juvenile Fiction. Because of the age group targeted (and because the story sounded interesting), I agreed to read and review it when I was offered a copy at no cost.
The story, which takes place 6,000 years ago, centers on a young boy who was the sole survivor after everyone in his village was massacred by an invading tribe. His only memory is that of an injured woman - most likely his mother - uttering a single word as she carried him to the edge of the forest: "Run." as she After spending considerable time in the woods, he finds another group of people who take him in, albeit grudgingly. Although he is given shelter and food, he always feels those things are given grudgingly and that he's an outcast.
Throughout several years, he never utters a word - always moving in stealth, wandering in and out of the forest in which he's more familiar and content and where he practices his considerable skill as an exceptionally fast runner. Then, as he watches other young boys in the group being taken under the wings of elder-teachers to learn hunting skills and what their responsibilities will be as adults, he decides to follow along (surreptitiously) to acquire that knowledge for himself.
Revealing much more would spoil the fun of reading it for yourself, but suffice it to say I'm quite sure (as the mother of four grandchildren who passed through this age group, albeit quite some time ago) that most youngsters will relate to the boy's experiences and find the book enjoyable.
I will say, though, that the ending - an epilogue - could use a bit more fleshing out. Without giving too much away, it seems to me that for a new family member to appear out of nowhere with no explanation of how many years have passed or how that new member came to be there gave me pause - and in this day and age, I'm pretty sure it would elicit questions even from a first-grader. Also, at least in the Kindle edition, the paragraphs are way too long and need extra spacing between each new one to make reading easier.
The Boy Who Ran by Michael Selden (Woodland Park Press LLC, November 2013); 160 pp.