From School Library Journal
Grade 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, Inc.
Gr. 4-6. These days stories about schools for budding magicians are inevitably compared to the Harry Potter books. Indeed, British author Nimmo's creation, Bloor's Academy "for gifted children," bears some resemblance to Hogwart's School, but the story itself is quite different. Seemingly ordinary Charlie Bone suddenly discovers that he can hear the thoughts of people in photographs, a talent that dour Grandma Bone and her three baleful sisters work to bend to their own ends by sending him to Bloor's and to its sinister headmaster. It's not an easy year for Charlie despite the friends he makes. Too many people have it in for him as he's swept into an age-old battle being waged by descendants of a powerful king of long ago. A mysterious box, a missing girl, a strange man who flits in and out in the company of three brightly colored cats, and various villains all figure into Charlie's exciting, fast-paced adventure tale, which happily is the first book in planned quintet called Children of the Red King. Harry Potter's myriad fans will be well pleased. Sally EstesCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved