Jenny Nimmo is an award-winning children's writer whose work has been adapted for stage and screen. Her trilogy THE SNOW SPIDER won the Smarties Prize. 'She has become a great drawer of characters and a powerful writer of fantasy and more; she knows how to use humour and atmosphere and to enclose her readers in a story.' - Wendy Cooling
Gr 4-6-Young readers are getting to be quite conversant with the characteristics of British boarding schools, especially those for the magically inclined. Jenny Nimmo's novel (Scholastic/Orchard, 2003) has postulated a set of characters the Endowed who exhibit very odd magical abilities that seem to have no purpose or usefulness at all and appear randomly in descendants of the nearly-mythical Red King. There are two branches of these descendants: the perplexed but essentially good people who have no idea why they can make light bulbs explode or hear voices coming from photographs, and the evil ones who seem to be part of a very complex and as yet unrevealed sinister scheme. This unusual take on magical abilities makes for a distinctly different set of circumstances and plot. Bloor's Academy which schools both Endowed and artistically gifted unendowed children has a much darker feel to it than Hogwart's but is still perfectly recognizable with its prefects, dining hall, dormitories, and so on. Charlie Bone, who discovers his Endowment at age 11 and has grown up in enigmatic family circumstances which he is only just beginning to figure out, makes many friends among the Endowed as well as the musicians, artists, and actors who people the school. This first tale from a projected series benefits from a reading by Simon Russell Beale which is rife with atmosphere and mystery. His voice, rich with nuance and emotion, brings to life each person and situation, and embellishes the story with a sense of drama and suspense fully appropriate to the tone of the writing. Charlie unravels one mystery of a missing Endowed girl in the course of setting the stage for dramatic future adventures. Not as complex at least not yet as the Harry Potter books, the promise exists for a continued completely fresh angle on the magic story. Many hints are provided of depths to be plumbed in future entries in the series, and a few plot lines in particular are already obvious. Listeners are going to be well rewarded in this audiobook, and they'll be anticipating future episodes.-Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The first in the projected Children of the Red King series, this paper-over-board British fantasy reads like ersatz Harry Potter. Charlie Bone, a likable "ordinary" boy of about 10, lives with his loving widowed mom and her mother, a salt-of-the-earth type, and his foreboding but wealthy paternal relations, who are "endowed" (with psychic abilities) and who watch Charlie for signs of the Yewbeam family gift. When Charlie suddenly begins to "hear" subjects in photographs, the Yewbeams delightedly pack him off to Bloor's Academy for similarly gifted children. Before he enrolls, however, voices from photographs lead him into a mystery, pointing to a suspicious baby "adoption" and involving clues about his own father's past; while these are the most original elements here, they, too, are familiar. At the Hogwarts-like Bloor's, Charlie is thrust into an ongoing struggle of good vs. evil, accompanied by new friends (an albino orphan, a drama diva and a musician) and confronted with mesmerizing foes (chiefly, the scion of the power-mad Bloor family). Nimmo writes solidly, but her powers of invention (shown in, for example, her Griffin's Castle) cannot withstand the comparison she invites with J.K. Rowling. Next in the series, The Time Twister. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)