Ten distinguished authors each write a chapter of this intriguing novel of mystery and family, which examines the lives touched by a photojournalist George Keane, aka Gee. The first chapter, by Linda Sue Park, begins with Gee's death and how it affects his granddaughter Maggie, who ponders the cryptic gift he has left for her: a box of seven seashells and a note reading, "Throw them all back." Several chapters follow Maggie and her stepbrother Jason; others are flashbacks that return to subjects of Gee's photographs-a prisoner who created Maggie's box (Deborah Ellis), a girl with a mysterious illness (David Almond) and a Japanese soldier who lost his legs to a grenade (Ruth Ozeki). Margo Lanagan's contribution, set in the future, offers a magical, world-altering explanation for how Gee has seemingly led multiple lives, as Nick Hornby hints at earlier. In Gregory Maguire's conclusion, an elderly Maggie reflects on her grandfather's influence ("He wanted us to see.... Jason took the camera and took off-his life took off.... I took the shells and I took off too"). The authors' distinctive styles remain evident; although readers expecting a more straightforward or linear story may find the leaps through time and place challenging, the thematic currents help the chapters gel into a cohesive whole. Royalties benefit Amnesty International. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Catherine Gilmore-Clough
It is difficult to imagine authors as diverse as Ruth Ozeki, Gregory Maguire, Eoin Colfer, and Linda Sue Park, among others, coming together to write a book for teens, and even more tricky to believe that the end result would be a seamless whole, a jigsaw that fits together so well that the individual pieces are indistinguishable. The constant thread running throughout is the character George "Gee" Keane, a photojournalist whose adventures and the lives of those who knew him provide a wealth of experiences for authors to mine. Park's contribution introduces Gee's grandchildren shortly after his death and provides a multitude of seeds for further chapters: a box of shells from different seas, photographs taken all over the world, and Gee's insight-bestowing camera equipment. The chapters vary, some revealing Gee's history, others showing the ripples of those events as they move through the lives of Gee's grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond. Tender and beautiful but never saccharine, each chapter seems to affirm the beauty and goodness to be found in life, without denying the darkness that exists. The balancing act of light and dark inherent in photography is the perfect metaphor to showcase these themes. The most thoughtful readers will enjoy this revelation of the depth and complexities of human nature, but the mystery of watching lives unfold bit by bit-each story providing hints of what will come later-will engage even casual readers.
The work and travels of a talented photographer lie at the heart of this far-flung tale. Created collaboratively by the likes of Eoin Colfer, Nick Hornby, Deborah Ellis and Gregory Maguire, among others, to benefit Amnesty International, this unusual story unfolds a chapter at a time in a wide variety of directions. Readers find themselves in the present, the past and the future, as well as all over the world. This fluidity of time and setting, along with the large number of characters, might have resulted in a chaotic feel, but skillful writing (and presumably editing) overcomes this potential problem. In the opening vignette by Linda Sue Park, readers meet Maggie and her brother Jason who are mourning the loss of their grandfather, Gee. Several subsequent sections feature Maggie and Jason, but most focus on Gee, always through the eyes of another. Each chapter is distinct enough to reveal a bit about its author while effectively contributing to the overall portrait of a complex, committed, elusive man. While some readers may find the narrative jumps too challenging, those who follow the multi-strand plot will be rewarded with a thought-provoking and thoroughly engaging read. (brief author biographies, notes on Amnesty International) (Fiction. 12-15)