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Just Henry (Costa Book Award - Children's Book Award) Paperback – 5 May 2008
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"'The author has a wonderful gift for hanging a richly woven tapestry around an essentially simple frame.' Times Education Supplement."
About the Author
Michelle Magorian Michelle Magorian is the best-selling author of numerous award-winning stories for children. Several of her books, including Goodnight, Mr Tom and Just Henry have been adapted for TV, helping book sales to reach the millions in the UK alone. Michelle was born in 1947 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, of a Welsh mother and Irish father with an Armenian Surname! Michelle Spent her toddler years in Singapore and two-and-a-half years (aged 7-9) in Australia. In between times, up to the age of eighteen, she lived in Portsmouth. She was educated at Kilbreda college, Mentone (Victoria, Australia) and the Covent of the Cross, Waterlooville, Hampshire. From 1969-1970 she was a mime student at Marcel Marceau's L'Ecole International de Mime in Paris. Since then Michelle has worked in theatre, television and films and has an established reputation as a comedienne, performing in plays and musicals. Michelle also toured with her one woman mime show in Italy and England. Some of her best-loved stories include A Spoonful of Jam, A Little Love Song, Cuckoo in the Nest, Just Henry and Goodnight, Mr Tom. Her extensive list of awards includes the Costa Prize and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award.
Top customer reviews
This was one of the most gripping and enjoyable books for youngsters that I have read. To write a 700 page book for children is challenge enough. To succeed in making every one of those pages captivating is a tremendous achievement. The author populates her book with distinct and clearly defined characters which young readers will come to regard as friends - but, of course, not everyone can be depended on.
It is the gradual resolution of one mystery after another that involves both Henry and the reader in this terrific tale. The plot moves from one puzzle to the next with obvious care and simplicity so that, despite its length, the story is over all too soon.
For the younger reader, there is much social history on subtle display. How attitude have changed to divorce and unmarried mums! For the reader who remembers 1949, it is a luxurious wallow in forgotten memories such as Saturday morning picture shows, the launch of The Eagle comic and some marvelous black and white movies. For all, it is a heart warming, engrossing read.
It is ten years since the last book by Michelle Magorian. This superb book justifies the wait.
Henry lives just after the second world war with his Mother, Uncle Bill - his boring and mean old Stepfather, his little half-sister Molly and lovely, adorable Gran. Henry has dreamed of his real father, who died a hero by saving someone's life and thinks that Uncle Bill is boring.
In class everyone had to write down what they would like to be when they were older. Henry who spends almost all of his free time at the cinema decides to be a projectionist, but is then in a group with two family enemies - Pip and Jeffries.
As Henry starts working with them, his life starts changing and then with the help of Mrs Beaumont's camera, Henry unravels an unknown secret about Gran and eventually his Dad...
Is his Dad who he thinks he has?
Is Uncle Bill as boring as Henry makes out?
Is Gran really as kind as she makes out?
All these questions will slowly unravel in the book...
I found this book utterly brilliant. There was nothing to improve on it.
I would recommend it for a boy or girl, ages 10+.
This is the story of Henry, just Henry because as we discover throughout the story he is coming to terms with not being who he thought he was a Dodge and then a Carpenter, growing up with one ideal and heroic view of life and his past only to see it shatter in front of his very eyes and a new future build in front of him with far reaching consequences.
Henry lives with his mother, his half sister Molly and his `Uncle' Bill. Also residing in the front room is Gran, the mother of his lost heroic father who died saving Private Jeffries. Gran is the one who is keeping Henry's father alive and making sure that he leads a life his father wanted. This has isolated Henry and when a new school teacher, Mr Finch makes him work with two what his Gran calls undesirables, Jeffries (whose father is a deserter) and Pip (who is illegitimate) Henry has to face a lot of prejudices all of them born from himself.
Through the medium of post war Britain trying to recover Magorian creates a world where we learn about the bomb sites which are picked over by the local children, what was left from destruction by the bombing, rationing is still on and everyone is trying to make do and mend five years after the war has ended. Magorian uses cinemas and films to unite all the youngsters and the adults in the film.
This is where there is no class divide, where it does not matter about your parentage but where everyone enjoys the images on the screen. The choice of films and cinemas is in abundance and where showings are followed by smaller films, newsreels, cartoons and then the big feature again. To enable Henry to watch all these films he needs to have someone take him into the cinema, in the days when just asking an adult in the queue was common. This is how Henry meets Mrs Beaumont and his life and all those he knows changes.
Mrs Beaumont is the guardian angel of this story, her position, her knowledge; the people she knows and her home are open to all regardless of their background, their position, their knowledge and where they live. Some might say you have to suspend belief that this woman just seemed to have the money and wherewithal to help but actually it does not matter all it does is enhance the story.
What is created in a book which draws you in within about twenty pages and has everything that you could possibly want in a novel, romance, crime, a thriller element and justice and a happy ending.
For adults read this book, you would not know you were reading something which is pitched at children. For children I think if they have tackled the large volumes of Harry Potter then this (and Magorian's other novels) could be easily absorbed and enjoyed by them and they would be learning about history probably without even reading it. A book to be read out aloud together and then read alone to enjoy more and more.
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