Charlie Bone has always lived with his mother, his reclusive great-uncle, and his two grandmothers, one pleasant, and the other decidedly not. His father disappeared years ago, and Charlie knows hardly anything about him. His grandmother, great-aunts and great-uncle, who were his father’s relatives, refuse to talk to him about his father. In fact, they generally ignore Charlie when they aren’t telling him how disappointing and annoying he is.
That is, until Charlie starts hearing voices. Not just any voices, but the voices from pictures. The people in the pictures talk to him…and when his father’s relatives find out, they are ecstatic. Apparently the family comes from a long line of magic workers. He is promptly shipped off to the family boarding school to be tutored in magic. Not everyone at the school does magic, only a small handful. Most of the students are there to study art, music, drama, or other creative pursuits. Charlie quickly becomes friends with several students, both normal and “endowed”. And, of course, he also makes enemies, unfortunately of the endowed type, including a werewolf and a boy who can hypnotize with his eyes. There are unexpected allies at home, as well as surprising enemies. And that’s not even counting the three amazing cats.
While comparisons to Harry Potter are inevitable – misunderstood boy, boarding schools, missing parent, magic – there are enough differences that his book cannot be simply written off as a copycat series. The plotting and politics are very different, and Charlie’s home life is more complicated, with a supportive mother and grandmother, as well as his father’s relative who may or may not be malicious. Of course, fans of Harry Potter will probably enjoy Charlie Bone as well, but it stands on its own merits. There is more of a sense of plot between books as well. With Harry, one felt that, other than the general rise of Voldemort, there wasn’t much plot carrying over. Consequences were minor from one book to the next. In this series, the books very much build on one another. The author of the series is Jenny Nimmo.