The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen – Reviewed by Pernille Ripp


“…Mrs. Ripp, I just don’t get it; how come the copies of The Runaway King are available?…”  Billy is looking at our must read book shelf, and he is right; two freshly pressed copies of The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen are sitting there up for grabs.  “…The reason they are available is that everyone is reading them in a night or two…” “Ooooh,” he says and wanders back to his seat.  And sure enough, later that day, one of the copies has disappeared into the hands of another student.

While I had been reluctant to read The False Prince, after much goading and a little bit of push from The Nerdy Book Club, I ended up devouring it in November, in two days, and then ran to school and placed it into the hands of Billy who I knew would love it as much as I would.  Then I placed it into the hands of Max, Amber, Cole, Michael and any other child that even seemed the least bit interest; The False Prince was simply that good.  So when the students heard that there was not long until the second book would come out, they started not just a sign up list but also a countdown eagerly awaiting what would happen next in the twisted saga of Prince Jaron.  We counted down the days, more than 50, and just hoped that the second book would be just as great as the first.

A few weeks later, in the beginning of February, an unassuming box from Scholastic showed up containing two copies of The Runaway King.  I have never tweeted a picture of a book before, but this time I did, sharing my excitement with the whole world.  Then I speed-walked, since running is not allowed in school, to the computer lab where my class was.  As I pressed the new book against the glass window, I heard a “Woo!” coming from the room.  That’s how excited we were and luckily the second book does not disappoint.  While things seems to have gotten better for Jaron at the end of The False Prince, it does not take many pages for the action and misadventure to start right back up in the Runaway King.    Throughout the book Jennifer Nielsen spins a tale that keeps you reading, hoping that things will turn out for the best even though they seem rather dire.  I am afraid to write too much about the action since I don’t want to give anything away, but rest assured that there are sword fights, dangerous stunts, pirates, and even a little bit of treachery all wrapped into this fast-paced tale.

Having the reading interest of a 5th grade boys helps me immensely whenever I reach for new books on my shelf, but much like The False Prince, The Runaway King is not just for boys who love to read, it is for girls as well, hooking many of my 5th grade girls just as easily as the first book did.  I don’t know how authors keep up with the quality of writing they do for themselves, but Jennifer Nielsen did it.  She wrote a worthy and exciting second book in her trilogy and our problem now is waiting for the third book.  Yes, a countdown and a sign up has already been started.

And that’s how you know you have a great book on your hands.

Pernille Ripp is a passionate 5th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and honest to a fault. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. She has no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in her students’ heads every day. First book coming out in 2013 from PLPress but until then she muses on education on my blog “Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension.” Follow her on Twitter @PernilleRipp.