When Charlie Bone discovers accidentally that he can hear people in photographs speak, his dad's side of the family takes over. They give him tests and poke and prod him to determine if this is a legitimate gift and whether he should be sent to special school. Charlie tries to deny it but can't because the pictures are so loud. He is sent to Bloor's Academy, away from his best friend and his mom. He learns about secrets that he shouldn't and meets others like him: both nice and mean. With cats that can set fire to things and a box that is trying to open itself, Charlie isn't at school long before he gets wrapped up in a variety of different schemes.
This book has lots of comparisons to Harry Potter but it really is a weak substitute. There isn't "magic" per say, but a few of the characters have unique abilities. That said, these abilities are hardly explored at all in the book and take a back seat once they are announced. I'm not sure I understand what the point is of having a character that can hear people within photographs if he only uses it a couple of times throughout the book.
Not much happens in this book, not much is required to fix the problems, and not much is described of the characters. All in all, it's a pretty shallow book, though I'm sure it would have a good audience of young kids - maybe 6-8 years old.
First Line: "Long, long ago a king arrived in the north."