Just Henry by Michelle Magorian
Paperback at £7.99
(Televised on Sunday 18th December 7pm ITV 1)
This book starts in late 1949 and fourteen year old Henry lives with his mother, stepfather, little stepsister and his Grandmother. Henry knows his father died a hero and ‘Uncle Bill’ does not match up in his eyes, nor in Gran’s. There is conflict enough at home without the new teacher taking against Henry, yet he seems friendly to the two boys that everybody else ignores. However, slowly Henry’s eyes are opened to truth after truth till a photo that he has taken turns his world upside down.
This was one of the most gripping and enjoyable books for youngsters that I have read. To write a children’s book that is more than 700 pages long takes some doing. However, to make sure that the reader is captivated for every one of those pages is a tremendous achievement. The author here populates her book with distinct and clearly defined characters which young readers will come to regard as friends - but not everyone in the book 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 attitudes to divorce and single mums have changed! For a reader who remembers the period, it is a luxurious wallow in forgotten memories such as Saturday morning picture shows, the launch of the Eagle comic and references to the films of the time. 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 and though it was written for youngsters, adults are among its biggest fans.
The above was our review for Just Henry on its publication. I then went out of my way to read some of her other books and can highly recommend them. A favourite is A Little Love Song. A must for all young girls!