The Barnes & Noble Review
Ten-year-old Charlie Bone doesn’t realize he’s inherited the family’s magical powers until one day he finds that he’s able to hear the conversations of people in photographs. When his nasty Grandma Bone and underhanded paternal aunts discover Charlie’s gift, they eagerly pack him off to Bloor's Academy -- a school of magic where he makes friends (and enemies) and learns the strange history of the Red King, whose descendents still roam the earth. Charlie’s courage is put to the test as be begins to discover that the Red King, his own emerging powers, and a mysterious metal box are all linked in ways he could never have imagined.
This adventure is the first installment in Jenny Nimmo's Children of the Red King, a spirited new series of fantasy adventures in the vein of J. K. Rowling’s bestselling Harry Potter books.
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.)
A young boy has both disagreeable and loving relatives, some with supernatural abilities. His father is dead. He is forced to go to a special school after discovering that he has magical powers. A mystery is afoot that only he can solve while being opposed by evil people. Magical assistance appears just when needed. Friends and teachers alike regard him as a hero. Sound familiar? When the "voices" in a photo are so loud that Charlie must cover his ears, dastardly Aunt Lucretia proudly proclaims that he is one of the "endowed." At Bloor's Academy, he meets others with unique skills. Sinister head boy Manfred Bloor hypnotizes anyone unwise enough to look into his eyes. Gabriel Silk "listens" to Charlie's father's tie and announces that his father is lost, not dead. Could Dad possibly be the distant music teacher, also a brilliant pianist like Mr. Bone? Could little girls fly in a story like this? Emilia Moon can but doesn't know it, having been kidnapped and kept in a trance-like state since age two by the Bloors. With help from friends, Charlie awakens her. And what of his father? Can someone say sequel? In ten-year-old Charlie Bone, Nimmo gives readers a character every bit as likeable and ingenious as Harry Potter. Best friend, nonendowed Benjamin, rivals Ron Weasley in the loyalty department. The magic falls short of Rowling's spectacles, and there are no astonishing foodstuffs or games. Still, this marvelous fantasy is able to stand on its own despite inevitable comparisons to the students of Hogwarts. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003 (orig. 2002), Orchard, 401p. PLB
Charlie Bone is a normal ten-year-old boymuch to the chagrin of his terrible old aunts. He lives with his mother, one strange uncle, and two very different grandmothers. Grandma Jones likes to be called Maisie, but Charlie would never dream of calling Grandma Bone by her first name. She is a member of the powerful Yewbeam family, most of whom are endowed; that is, they possess the amazing powers of the Red King, who passed his magic on to his descendents. One brisk fall day, Charlie accidentally hears the thoughts of people in a photograph and realizes that he, too, is one of the endowed. His horrible Yewbeam aunts quickly pack him off to Bloor's Academy. Bloor's, seemingly an elite school for prodigies and geniuses, is run by the endowed Bloor family, secretly in league with the Yewbeams. With clues from the "talking" photograph, help from his new friends at Bloor's, and with his strange Yewbeam uncle as an ally, Charlie sets off on an adventure to find a lost baby and solve the mystery of his father's disappearance eight years earlier. Most readers will recognize similarities between the story of Charlie Bone and that of Harry Potter: a young boy with newly discovered magical powers matriculates at an academy for other children like himself and soon finds himself wrapped up in mystery and adventure. Although Charlie's story is rather obviously a Harry Potter knockoff, it is still exciting in its own right, even if underdeveloped. The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Charlie's father and the apparent rift between his uncle and the rest of the Yewbeams is particularly compelling. It remains to be seen what relationship the endowed play in the non-endowed society. This is thefirst in the "Children of the Red King" series. 2002, Orchard Books/Scholastic Inc, Ages 9 to 12.
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.
Readers may come away from this hefty series opener, about a seemingly ordinary British lad who is sent to a special boarding school after discovering that he has magical powers, with a distinct sense of déjà vu. It seems that England had a magical Red King seven centuries ago, who disappeared after his wife died and five of his ten children went bad. All ten children are still around in various guises, and, along with occasional descendants, can wield parts of the Red King's magic-so once ten-year-old Charlie reveals that he can hear the people in photographs talking, the nasty camp swoops down to bustle him off to Bloor's Academy. Within Bloor's gloomy stone walls he meets friends and enemies, some of whom are also "Endowed," as he struggles to learn the school's routines, helps rescue a kidnapped schoolmate whose mind has been clouded by the baddies, discovers that his father may not be dead as he's been led to believe, and is stalked by a werewolf. The climactic battle, however, occurs offstage, and though several characters turn out not to be who or what they seem, the revelations are thoroughly telegraphed. The author leaves a few threads dangling, but underestimates her audience if she thinks she's left any major surprises for future episodes. Charlie's adventure adds up to a formulaic, thinly disguised placeholder for the next Harry Potter; a far cry from Nimmo's eerie, atmospheric Griffin's Castle (1997). (Fiction. 10-12)
Praise for the Children of the Red King series
"Vivid characters and stories that hang together well." --THE WASHINGTON POST
"Nimmo's characterizations . . . have a high comfort level, and her major players are well-defined and sympathetic. . . . an absorbing, well-wrought read." --BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN'S BOOKS
"A . . . worthwhile offering for avid fantasy fans." --SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"[An] exciting, fast-paced adventure tale." --BOOKLIST
"In ten-year-old Charlie Bone, Nimmo gives readers a character every bit as likeable and ingenious as Harry Potter. . . . [a] marvelous fantasy." --VOICE OF YOUTH ADVOCATES