Running on the Cracks
Julia Donaldson

This is a runaway thriller for Jacqueline Wilson fans, by the author of The Gruffalo. 14-year-old Leo runs away from her aunt and uncle's home, where she has been living since the sudden death of her musician parents. Leo is driven away by the disturbing behaviour of her uncle. But she is not just wanting to escape her life: she wants to discover the secret behind the feud between her father and his Chinese family. Leo's journey is peopled with a cast of fabulous characters: 12-year-old Finlay, who can never get anything right and is always in trouble; Mary the manic depressive, who provides a hideaway for Leo; Rab, the grumpy corner shop owner and Marina the no-nonsense doughnut lady, both of whom give Finlay work - and plenty of unsolicited advice! Julia Donaldson has crafted a funny, moving, heart-stopping thriller with characters that will stay in your heart long after you have turned the final uplifting page.

'Donaldson's flair for a good story extends way up the age-scale.' The Times

'An engaging story about people you really come to care about.' The Guardian

'It gripped my 13-year-old from start to finish.' The Daily Telegraph

'A thrilling corkscrew of a novel that twists and turns, weaving several strands of story into one compelling narrative...' Julia Eccleshare, Lovereading.
Aaron, from St James Catholic High School

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I would love to read a follow up (if there is one).


I really liked the tension on some pages e.g. when the man forced Leo into the car; I was on the edge of my seat. With such amazing descriptions, I could so easily imagine the scenes in my head.


I loved the theme of the story - running away and looking for a distant relative.


I liked this book very much, and enjoyed every minute of it.

Elliot, from University College School London

This book is the perfect runaway story. It really does capture the emotions of a person who has nobody to turn to and has to fight every day for the chance to live a normal, happy life.

This is the story of a young girl by the name of Leo who has recently lost her parents and has been forced to live with an abusive, perverted uncle and his family. In a desperate ploy to escape this life, Leo decides to go in search of her father’s Chinese side of the family. On this journey, Leo encounters friends, enemies and some kind yet mentally unstable souls.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The author took me into a world that is completely different to the one I live in yet is, nonetheless, very real. The characters are also around my age and along with the author’s ability to really help one empathise with them, I was put into their shoes even more with every page. What makes this book an even better read is that although the general story is rather harrowing, Julia Donaldson manages, at some points, to give it the exciting pace of any good action book.

I would recommend this book to anyone aged 11 and over. 

Mollie, from St James Catholic High School

Running on the cracks starts in a train station. Leo is running away from home to find her grandparents in Glasgow. Leo soon meets Finlay (the paperboy) and Mary (an old woman who takes her in) and they continue the search for her grandparents; but Leo is in trouble - her uncle is looking for her.


I like the book because it shows the relationships between friends and family and the struggles of a girl to get away from an obsessive and dangerous uncle. I like that to hook the reader the author (Julia Donaldson) doesn’t explain why Leo has run away which really engages you into the story and you grow attached to the characters.

Razheka, from Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School, Barnet

I really liked the book, it was really interesting. It was about this girl called Leo and she is running away from someone; her parents have died and she is now living with her auntie. She ran away from her auntie's house and brought spare clothes with her to change so no one will try finding her.


But someone is following Leo and she doesn’t know who it is. But Leo is running from her past and finally running into trouble.


I thought the book was sad and really touching. I would read this book again because it shows us so much more about teenagers running away.

Shannon, from St James Catholic High School

Running on the Cracks was quirky, heartfelt, touching and full of suspense. I definitely agree with the comment on the back cover that the characters are eccentric and unforgettable. I absolutely loved them. Leo was intelligent and realistic and easy to relate to. Finlay was funny in a sweet innocent kind of way and a terrific friend to Leo. Then there was Mary, who you just can’t help but have a soft spot for.


This is a well-written book that draws you in from the very first pages. I loved the alternating perspectives and found it interesting how Julia wrote Leo in the first person and then switched to the third person. The funny thing is, I didn’t notice until I was well into the book.


The ending was excellent. I had no idea how things would end but Julia has surprises right to the end. Running on the Cracks was an altogether unique and memorable book, combining intriguing characters and well-crafted writing. Altogether a stunning novel from Julia Donaldson. 

Yasmine, from St James Catholic High School

Teodora is running from her perverted uncle. When Teodora meets Finlay and Mary, they’re on a quest to hide Teodora from her Uncle and the social workers from “Missing People”. This exciting book is for people aged 11+ and anyone up for a breath-taking adventure!