The Runaways by Ulf Stark

The Runaways

Ulf Stark, Author

Kitty Crowther, Illustrator

Gecko Press, Fiction, Apr. 2, 2019

Pages: 144

Suitable for Ages: 6-11

Themes: Grandfather, Illness, Hospital, Lying, Runaways, Multigenerational families, Loss


Grandpa is in the hospital and hating it. He swears at the nurses and makes trouble for everyone. Dad finds it too stressful to visit. But Gottfried Junior loves his Grandpa and visits him as often as he’s allowed, and when he’s not allowed, he goes anyway. He even sneaks him forbidden foods and beverages.

Grandpa thinks only of the place he was happiest — the island where he lived with Grandma. He wants to go back one last time, but they won’t let him out of the hospital.

Gottfried Junior and Grandpa take things into their own hands. If running away is the only way to the island, then they’ll be runaways.

Why I like this book:

I have to admit the title and cover of this book caught my eye. As I leafed through the pages, I knew that it would be a book that would resonate with children who have ailing grandparents and perhaps children who are ill. It’s packed with adventure, some clever planning, a good dose of humor, and sweet memories.

Every grandparent deserves a compassionate and loyal grandchild like Gottfried Junior, who outsmarts his parent to find ways to make secret trips to visit his grandpa at the hospital. Gottfried listens to his grumpy grandpa, his angry rants about the horrible food and being confined to a bed after he broke his leg twice. But Gottfried also remembers all the fun adventures he had with his grandpa. Together they hatch a plan to spring Grandpa from the hospital for two days, without Gottfried’s parents knowing.

The execution of the plan rests entirely on Gottfried, who arranges all of the details which include faking an overnight footbal trip; arranging the food; hiring a baker friend to help him wheel Grandpa out of the hospital and driving them to the dock to take a boat to the island. Everything goes off without a hitch, but Gottfried has to wrestle with “is it ever a good thing to lie sometimes?”

It is important for children to see how Gottfried’s grandpa handles the end of his life. He has one wish, to return to the home he built for his wife and spend time there remembering all the good in his life. In making the trip with Grandpa, Gottfried learns that death is not something to fear, that it’s important to remember joyful memories, and find closure with family members. I won’t spoil the beautiful ending.

The Runaways is written by Swedish author, Ulf Stark, and has been translated into English. It has a European feel to it, especially with the beautiful colored-pencil illustrations by Kitty Crowther that grace the chapters and give readers an additional experience.


“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 last jar of lingonberry jam that he said somehow still had Grandma in it.” Page 72

Ulf Stark was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1944. He has written around thirty books for children and young adults, translated into more than twenty languages. He has won many prizes in Sweden and internationally, including the German Youth Literature Prize and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

22 thoughts on “The Runaways by Ulf Stark

  1. Sounds like a great story that balances dealing with the heavy issue of the grandfather’s death with the plan to help him escape. Thanks for sharing it this week.


  2. Oh my. I´m in tears already and I only read your review, not the book That bond between children and grandparents is marvelous. They just seem to understand each other. I too love the cover.


  3. What a lovely quote! And I’m happy to hear there’s humor in this book, and it’s not just a sad story of a dying grandparent. Have to admit I hadn’t heard of it before. Thanks for sharing.


  4. What a touching story! I remember reading another book by this author—When Dad Showed Me the Universe. His writing style gets right to your emotions. Thanks for featuring on MMGM. I’m looking forward to reading THE RUNAWAYS.


  5. I checked this book out from our library a couple of weeks ago. I also liked the cover and the book blurb on the back of the book. I think I’ll move it ahead in my TBR queue after reading your thoughts today. Thanks for sharing about this unique story for MMGM, Patricia.


  6. This book sounds delightful—leaving on our terms. As a teacher for over three decades, I saw a lot of children who dealt with very adult issues.


  7. This sounds like a beautiful story, especially for anyone dealing with an ill or aging relative. Thanks so much for the review!


  8. This sounds like a book I would love, and in fact, I have also been attracted to the cover ever since I first saw it. Thank you for this excellent review. I love books about the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.


    • Multigenerational relationships are among some of my favorite stories. I remember how important my grandparents were to me. Unfortunately today, families live far a part and it’s harder for grandparents to maintain close relationships with their grandchildren.


  9. I love books about the relationship between grandparents and grandkids. Thanks for telling me about it. I’m reading a book right now that is translated from Swedish. It does have a different feel.


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