Harry Miller's Run

illus. by Salvatore Rubbino. 64p. Candlewick. Feb. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763689759.
RedReviewStarGr 4–6—In this charming generational tale, elderly, frail Harry Miller shares a piece of his past with 11-year old Liam and his kindly mother, who are helping Harry pack up his home and move into a nursing home. Liam has been training for the Junior Great Northern Run, a short version of the now-famous annual half-marathon from Newcastle upon Tyne to South Shields, England. Seeing Liam in his race entry T-shirt prompts Harry to recall a hot April day in 1938 when he, at age 11, and two friends spontaneously and exuberantly embarked on the same run just to cool off with a swim in the North Sea. Along the way, they met Veronica, a spunky lass who joined their adventure, and Mr. Gabrieli, the ice-cream maker, who gave them all huge treats and handmade certificates for their 13-mile accomplishment. Harry revisits his past between naps and cups of tea while Liam and his mother sort through a box of photographs that spark Harry's memory, reveal his younger self, and hint at a longer, deeper relationship with Veronica. When Liam and his friend run the race a week later, after Harry's death, Liam's youthful jubilation matches Harry's fond reminisce. Liam delivers an engaging narration infused with delightful Briticisms and understated, sensitive observations. Like Liam, middle grade readers will begin to see Harry not as a quirky, failing old man but as a once-spirited boy who loved life. Rubbino's lively watercolor illustrations enhance the tale's warmth and contrasts, depicting Harry's vivid recollections in bright colors and current happenings in a gray wash.
VERDICT Once again, Almond's masterly evocation of place, time, relationships, and indomitable spirit is superb. An excellent addition to middle grade fiction collections.

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