Saturday, January 20, 2007
Review: Midnight for Charlie Bone
Title: Midnight for Charlie Bone
Author: Jenny Nimmo
As this was an audiobook, I don't have a favorite quote taken down.
From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6-When he is 10 years old, Charlie discovers that he is able to look at photographs and hear conversations and even thoughts that were taking place at the time the photo was taken, a legacy of his ancestor the Red King, whose descendants all have different magical abilities. Charlie hears one conversation that sets him on a search for a girl who has been missing for years, and when he begins attending Bloor's Academy, an elite boarding school for the rich and the endowed (as the Red King's descendants are called), his life becomes full of intrigue and danger. Charlie, his friend Benjamin, and other allies try to unlock the secrets of a mysterious case that could get the girl back, while the sinister Bloors and Charlie's ghastly relatives who are endowed try to thwart them.
I had heard a lot about this series of novels by Jenny Nimmo. It's one of those series that has come out in the midst of the Harry Potter phenomenon, and I wanted to read it as I need *something* to keep me going after the chronicles of my favorite boy wizard (and I mean Ron Weasley, not Harry Potter!) come to an end. So I picked up Charlie Bone.
The story is interesting, though I do think it's quite derivative of Harry Potter. For example, the "endowed" children (those with magical abilities) must go to a certain boarding school, Bloor's Academy. At the academy, all the students must wear capes of different colors, representing which subject they're studying. And Charlie makes friends with a lonely orphan with little self-esteem and, ahem, another boy with red hair and freckles and a huge family. Oh, yes, and a girl who's brilliant (granted, a brilliant actress, rather than a brilliant student, but you get the idea).
That's really just the tip of the iceberg. Though maybe all children's fantasy novels taking place in our world start this way. I haven't read very many, I'll admit.
It's hard to read this book and not compare it to Potterdom. It is written for a younger crowd, so perhaps they don't have all the questions in their heads that I do after reading this one. For instance, all "endowed" children attend Bloor's Academy. But so do "talented" children. Bloor's "talented" children fall into the groups of either art, drama or music. But can't kids be talented at other things, too? And the endowed kids also fall into either art, drama or music. But Charlie is placed in music, and he has no musical ability. So ... it seems a bit random.
Also, these talented kids go to the same school as the endowed kids. But apparently, people living in the world are all very frightened of people with magical abilities. Again- why? If they send their kids to school with magicians, then why are they frightened when they come across them, generally? I was confused.
However, I suppose most seven-year-olds care more about a good story than about little technicalities. In that way, Charlie Bone is an enjoyable read. I listened to it driving to and from work these past two weeks and it certainly helped pass the time. The narrator had good voice inflection and he did different voices for each character.
If you're interested in Charlie Bone, I'd approach Nimmo's books not as fantasy novels, but as children's novels. That way, you'll take away the light story without worrying too much about the nitty-gritty details. Charlie Bone is the first in a projected series of five books (all but the last one have been released). This one was compelling enough that I might pick up the second one. But I'm no nearly so antsy to get my hands on it as I am to get them on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Even if I'm not a fan of that title ;-)