A blog that discusses literature for young people.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"The Running Man" by Michael Gerard Bauer

Joseph Davidson is a chronically shy 14 year old boy with a talent for art. Tom Leyton lives next door. He’s a Vietnam Veteran who barely speaks and never leaves the house. Their very different worlds collide when Tom’s sister Caroline suggests that Joseph draw a portrait of Tom. Slowly and fearfully Joseph enters Tom Leyton’s world, believing that he needs to understand the man in order to capture his image on paper. A cautious friendship is formed as Joseph helps Tom attend to his silkworms and the image of these developing creatures becomes a metaphor for their friendship. In the background of the story lurks ‘the running man’ – a perpetually running local man whose wild appearance and erratic loping style terrifies Joseph.

I found that it took me quite a while to get into The Running Man, however once I did, I was totally absorbed. Bauer takes the time to build up each strand of the story before weaving them together with skillful precision. Instead of spending time on lots of plot action, he invests instead in crafting each of his characters in great detail. Even less significant characters like the nosey neighbour, Mrs Mossop, are painted with intricacy.

I particularly enjoyed the silkworm imagery in the book. From the images of silkworm moths on the cover, to the inclusion of Douglas Stewart’s poem, The Silkworms in the text, to the significant chapter headings, these powerful images of this delicate and self-imprisoned creature permeated throughout the book. The story of the silkworm lifecycle was a perfect parallel to the emerging friendship that developed between the two main characters.

I think that this would be an ideal text for students to study at school, probably around Year 10 level.

The Running Man won the 2005 CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Award in the Older Readers category.

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