Thornhill

Pam Smy. Roaring Brook, $19.99 (544p) ISBN 978-1-62672-654-3
Near the start of British illustrator Smy’s harrowing debut novel, Ella Clarke and her father move to a house that overlooks a dilapidated former orphanage, the Thornhill Institute. Ella’s father is never home, so when the lonely teen spies a girl wandering Thornhill’s grounds, she decides to crawl through the gate and introduce herself. Thirty-five years earlier, in 1982, 13-year-old Thornhill resident Mary Baines is being tormented day and night by a fellow orphan. When the facility begins “rehoming” children and laying off staff as part of a planned closure, her bully’s persecution intensifies, and an increasingly miserable Mary contemplates revenge. Her actions will have ramifications for decades to come. The girls’ stories intertwine as they unfold in tandem; heartbreaking entries from Mary’s diary alternate with eerie b&w illustrated sequences, which silently follow Ella’s exploration of Thornhill and her interactions with Mary’s ghost (newspaper clippings and other bits of text provide context for these otherwise wordless sections). Smy uses this hybrid format to weave a chilling tale that highlights the importance of kindness and child advocacy while emphasizing the lasting damage wrought by abuse and neglect. Ages 10–14. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/05/2017
Release date: 08/29/2017
Genre: Children's
Ebook - 978-1-62672-653-6
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