Disclaimer: I started reading this review right at the very end of 2012 and finished it on January 2nd of this year. For that reason, I initially didn’t include it in my Cannonball Read total. However, now I’ve decided to go for the double Cannonball and read 104 books this year, I’m being a minor cheat and including it.
Henry Dodge is not a happy boy. His father is a dead war hero, his mum is married to a man Henry can’t stand and he’s not having any fun at school either. His paternal grandmother dotes on him, having moved in after the death of her son. Henry escapes to the cinema, where he befriends Mrs Beaufort. Kindly Mrs B gives Henry an old camera for a school project. When he develops the film inside, the pictures turn his world upside down.
Magorian is probably best known for Goodnight Mr Tom and it’s my enduring love for that book which drew me to this one. And I very much enjoyed it. There’s a huge element of wish fulfilment as Henry and his ragtag bunch of friends set about solving the mystery posed by the photos and Magorian has a lot of fun in taking creating perceptions of characters and situations and then fully re-creating them.
Given the demographic this book is aiming at, there’s a lot of life lessons learnt and some Very Important Themes about acceptance and the like. It’s really pleasing that these are woven in without talking down to the audience and that they are incorporated quite deftly too, so as not to seem even remotely crass. It’s also good that Magorian doesn’t stint on the page count, with this clocking in north of 700 pages. It’s a big ask of the target audience, but the tale is excitingly told, with great and colourful (though sometimes too good or bad to be true, if we’re fair) characters, so it’s not JUST the children who will find themselves gripped to the last page.