Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.
1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it's shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she's left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.
2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill's shadowy past.
Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines - Mary's through intimate diary entries and Ella's in bold, striking art - Pam Smy's Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, filled with suspense.
This is the first book to be both written and illustrated by Pam Smy. It was developed out of an opportunity from her publisher, which resulted in the cultivation of her own ideas into this amazing book. Inspired by a walk around Cambridge in England, where the author/illustrator lives, she stumbled on an unusual abandoned house with a wall around it and a "KEEP OUT" sign. Armed with her sketch pad and brilliant imagination, this became the seed for the story.
On opening the book, the images and the words are outstandingly provocative and beautiful. The black and white illustrations lead the readers into a dark and fantasy parallel wonderland. The first diary entry is from the 8th February 1982 and begins with "I knew it was too good to last. She is back". From this moment we are gripped, as we turn the pages to a centerpiece of blackness with a brooding building providing an indication of the eerie ride that is to come. The magnificent feast of black and white illustrations (about half of the book) pop out at you and tell one part of the story which will plunge you into an atmospheric world of dark secrets, loss, loneliness, friendship and the lasting damage brought on by bullying and neglect.
This is an amazing story with a disturbing twin narrative that will glue you to the pages of two girls separated by 30 years who gravitate to one place, THORNHILL. This is an old institution for children with a hidden past that will leave you entranced and slightly disturbed. This is visually one of the best books you will find for the young (10+) as well as old. It's chilling, gripping and really makes you think.
The fantastic and unusual format will encourage and captivate children whilst the strange, and rather spine chilling story tackles everyday issues. It is beautifully expressive and commands the reader's attention throughout. I was instantly transported to this world. My fantasy mind was floating through a visual landscape that made me want to explore the house and the grounds, it was an absolute delight. The thought process and the amount of work that has gone into this book is incredible. You will look at it on the bookshelves and think WOW. It is definitely a book to cherish and keep.
I would love to see more books like this one being published. Many congratulations to Pam Smy and the David Fickling Team - I truly believe that this is a future classic.