Saturday, 4 July 2015

IMPOSSIBLE! by Michelle Magorian, reviewed by Pippa Goodhart



Most of us know Michelle Magorian best for her very first book, 'Goodnight Mr Tom', winner of the Guardian Children's Book Prize, and a story that has gone beyond book form into the theatre and as a film.  It's a wonderful book about a boy, a dog, and an old man, brought together by the evacuation of children during the Second World War. 

I've also loved Magorian's 'Back Home', 'A Little Love Song', and 'A Spoonful of Jam', and there are more books which I must read.  But the very latest to be published is 'Impossible!', which I've just finished reading.  I've thoroughly enjoyed it, partly because you feel Michelle Magorian so very thoroughly enjoying herself so much as she wrote it!

This story includes familiar Michelle Magorian elements ... the child away from home, surviving in a hostile place, the love of theatre, and a bygone age.  It's set in the late 1950s, and follows twelve year old Josie as she starts at a stuffy drama school.  Josie is from a different background from most of the other children.  Her family have all had to help in order to get her this chance to join the acting profession, so she can't let on to them that she's hating the place.  Josie doesn't fit the mould.  She's a cockney in a place that values RP, and she's a proper tomboy, wanting to play boy's parts, when her teachers are trying to teach her to be ladylike. 

The first hundred or so pages of this long book do sprawl as we meet a huge cast of characters and veer from one bit of story to another.  But then the story gets into its stride, becoming a thriller that takes us into the new alternative theatrical world of Joan Littlewood, and London's docklands (pre-Docklands, of course), in a story of kidnapping, shootings, drugs, bullying, drownings, and good old fashioned come-uppances. 

This is a world of radiograms, Premium Bonds, sputnicks, cruetts, snobbishness about ITV, and more to puzzle modern children but evoke smiles of recognition in older readers.  Its a story about different theories of how to act on stage, making it a fascinating read for any, old or young, who are interested in drama.  And it's a story about a resourceful girl who is different from the rest, and a large cast of larger than life characters amongst whom us older readers will spot familiar names.  It's great fun! 

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