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Barney and the Runaway Review by Brandi Tesreau

By Max Elliot Anderson
Comfort Publishing
296 Church Street North
Concord, NC 28025

Michael Ellis is in trouble-- again. He's tired of getting in trouble, he's tired of being sent to his room, and he's tired of rules altogether! He decides to teach his parents a lesson by running away. He and his best friend--a dog named, Barney--decide to camp out all night in a boxcar. Though they don't mean to be gone too long, things take a scary turn when the boxcar suddenly begins to move. Michael and Barney are trapped on a circus train traveling all the way from Missouri to Georgia, but fortunately Big Bob the clown takes them in, providing safety, food, and even friendship. In the midst of action-packed adventure that involves earning a spot in the show, rescuing Barney from bad guys, and eventually saving the circus from closing down for good, Michael learns a very important lesson.

Specifically written for tween boys, Barney and the Runaway provides reluctant readers with an easy read that is realistic yet adventurous enough to keep interest. Readers won't be bogged down by hard-to-pronounce words and literary jargon--no delving deep in search of symbols, metaphors, and the like. The book is also rather short--only 130 pages. Long books can seem daunting to tweens who don't love to read. It's nice for my children to get a break every now and then from classical literature so that they can read for the sake of simply enjoying a good story.

I assigned Barney and the Runaway to my third grade son, and upon finishing, he shrugged his shoulders and said it was good. Unless it's a Diary of the Wimpy Kid book, he typically doesn't act overly thrilled when it comes to reading. One thing I do know is that he never once became frustrated while reading the book, and he completed his book report form without a hitch!

Max Elliot Anderson incorporates Christian values in his books for tweens, which is comforting to me as a parent. A few topics of discussion you might want to consider for Barney and the Runawayare: the importance of family, the reasons for rules, and the meaning of true love. While there won't be a need for a vocabulary list for this book, you might want to point out the misspelled word on page 10 before giving the book to your child--or better yet, see if he can find it! (The word used,complement, should actually be compliment.) This minor error in no way detracts from the story.

Overall, I was pleased with Barney and the Runaway and would recommend it as a great summer read or, as I mentioned above, as a break from your child's regular literature curriculum. Purchase it for just $10.99 from

Product review by Brandi Tesreau, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2011