Cover image for The runaways
The runaways
Snyder, Zilpha Keatley.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
245 pages ; 22 cm
Twelve-year-old Dani hates living in the small desert town of Rattler Springs, Nevada, but her plans to run away get complicated when a pesty young boy and an imaginative new girl decide they want to go along.
Reading Level:
870 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.4 10.0 29337.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.4 15 Quiz: 21526 Guided reading level: NR.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Young readers will love the latest novel from three-time Newbery Honor winner Zilpha Keatley Snyder: Dani O'Donnell can't wait to get out of her new home town, Rattler Springs, out in the middle of the desert.  All she wants to do is get back to California where she belongs.  So just before she turns 13, Dani plans her escape.  But things get complicated when 9-year-old Stormy wants to go, and so does the new rich girl in town, Pixie.  When this threesome finally resolves to go, they must face what running away really means, and the true reason they are going.

Author Notes

Zilpha Keatley Snyder was born in Lemoore, California on May 11, 1927. She received a B.A. from Whittier College in 1948. While ultimately planning to be a writer, after graduation she decided to teach school temporarily. However, she found teaching to be an extremely rewarding experience and taught in the upper elementary grades for a total of nine years. After all of her children were in school, she began to think of writing again.

Her first book, Season of Ponies, was published in 1964. She wrote more than 40 books during her lifetime including The Trespassers, Gib Rides Home, Gib and the Gray Ghost, and William's Midsummer Dreams. She has won numerous awards including three Newbery Honor books for The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid and The Witches of Worm and the 1995 John and Patricia Beatty Award for Cat Running. She died of complications from a stroke on October 08, 2014 at the age of 87.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-8. No one actually runs away, in this story, though 12-year-old Dani O'Donnell spends a lot of time and energy planning how she will do it. She hates the desert town and misses Sea Grove, the California town she and her mother left when they inherited an old ranch in 1951. The ranch has neither electricity nor plumbing, so they rent a place in town, where Dani's mom works in a bookstore and loses herself in reading. Dani is angry at her mother, at the bleak town, at the relentless weather, and often at Stormy, a nine-year -old dyslexic boy, who hangs around them. Then a geologist couple burst into town with odd daughter Pixie and set up shop--and a generator--at the O'Donnell spread. Pixie boldly insinuates herself into Stormy's and Dani's lives and proclaims her own reasons for wanting to run away. There are too many strands in this occasionally overwrought story, which paradoxically moves rather sluggishly: child abuse, a professional couple who can't quite get the knack of child raising, a wicked landlord whose son is the local bully. But Dani's pal Stormy is a richly drawn character with few words and rough gestures, an unforgettable portrait of a child whose life is heartbreakingly complicated. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Snyder (The Gypsy Game) pulls off another feat of prestidigitation with this roundly satisfying story set in 1951. Coming from almost anyone else, the plot and cast of characters might sound stale: three smart kids‘one resentful of her mother's passivity and bumbling; one neglected and abused by his mother; and one whose parents are too busy for her‘decide to run away but then don't need to after all. Snyder, however, can invest her characters with inner resources that are both extreme and believable, and readers will gravitate to her protagonist, 12-year-old Dani O'Donnell, right from the opening scene in a graveyard. There Dani, shaking her fist in the air, vows to move away from the hateful desert town of Rattler Springs, where she and her well-meaning but seemingly inept mother have lived for four years. Her pesky, book-loving younger neighbor, Stormy Arigotti, blackmails Dani into agreeing to take him along, and while they are in the process of raising funds, they meet Pixie Smithson. The preternaturally self-possessed, truth-twisting daughter of a geologist couple doing a short project in Rattler Springs, Pixie soon enlists in the running-away plan too. The trio's strategies for escape are only the most superficial sources of tension here; the deepening view of the children's home lives and Dani's growing affection for Stormy and Pixie prove steadily more engrossing. Even the minor characters here seem to have lives off the page. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-Three memorable would-be runaways are determined to escape parents who do not meet their emotional needs. Dani instigates the plan; she is a focused and imaginative 12-year-old who wants only to return to the California coast she and her mother left to claim an inheritance in a dusty, desert town. Her intentions are discovered by her friend Stormy, a needy nine-year-old who can't read well but has a voracious appetite for stories. Dani has grudgingly become his reader and, as she becomes aware of the growing abuse he suffers from his mother, even more grudgingly agrees to include him in her plans. Then Pixie and her wealthy geologist parents move onto the property Dani and her mother had inherited but found uninhabitable. As much of an outsider as Dani and Stormy, she pushes her way into a friendship with them. Neglected by her distracted though well-meaning parents, Pixie also wants to escape. An exciting desert drama results when the three attempt to put the plan into action. The book is set in the 1950s, and the dying town and desperate people are very real and touching. The plight of these creative and neglected children will keep readers turning the pages. Dani is the force of this novel, but Stormy is the heart, a boy who just can't be knocked down. The ending may be a bit contrived, but these characters deserve a "happily ever after" conclusion and readers will be glad they got it.-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



"So," Dani said. "That's our reasons for running away. Now, how about you?" "Me?" For just a split second Pixie looked like she was trying to think what to say, or maybe decide whether she ought to say it. But then her eyes did that quick flash of fire thing, and biting her lip, she nodded slowly. "Yesss," she said, drawing it out to a sizzle. "See, it's very important that I run away soon before something terrible happens. Something unbelievably terrible." She turned to Stormy. "I think Stormy can guess why I have to run away. Can't you, Stormy? Can't you guess why I have to run away as soon as I possibly can?" Stormy didn't answer. Instead he only did the embarrassed squirmy thing that usually meant he'd been up to no good. Dani was sure she recognized Stormy's guilty expression, but she couldn't imagine what he was guilty of that had anything to do with why Pixie had to run away. But then he said, "I didn't ask her about it. She just told me." Dani began to get the picture. She stared at Pixie, "What did you tell Stormy?" "Well," Pixie said. "You know that rumor about the machine my parents took up to the ranch?" "What machine?" "You know. The one on the big truck?" "Yeah?" Dani had a horrible feeling that she knew what Pixie was driving at and where the conversation was headed, but she didn't intend to help it get there. She knew Pixie wanted her to ask what the machine was really for, but she wasn't going to do it. If Pixie wanted to say that her parents had a machine for making monsters out of dead people she was going to have to do it on her own, without any help from Dani. No help from Danielle O'Donnell, who didn't believe in any crazy stuff like that. Particularly crazy stuff about Frankenstein monsters. So "Yeah?" was all she had to say. Pixie nodded, and repeated, "Yeah." The nod was slow and solemn but the blue-fire flashes were constant now. "Why do you suppose they wanted to live way out there anyway, where no one could see what they're up to? Did you ever think about that?" Excerpted from The Runaways by Zilpha Keatley Snyder All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.