Images and diary entries combine to tell the stories of two girls, Ella and Mary. Ella's story is told through pictures as she moves into a house next door to the dark, foreboding Thornhill, a deserted house which used to be a children's home. Mary's story is told through the diary she kept whilst a resident in Thornhill. Bullied relentlessly by another child, Mary becomes increasingly isolated and withdrawn, keeping to her room and taking comfort in her hobby of making puppets.
The two stories alternate and overlap until the story reaches its powerful conclusion. A relatively quick read, 'Thornhill' is compelling and creative. The illustrations are incredible- full of emotion and tension, telling their story as brilliantly as the pages of the diary.
Bullying and neglect are central to this story. As the children's home is closing, the staff are reduces and those who remain fail to see the torment Mary is going through, judging her to be odd and reclusive. The motivations of the bully are also considered - self-loathing and insecurity leading her to lash out at someone vulnerable, who doesn't fight back. The failure of those in a position of responsibility to care and protect is uncomfortable reading. Ella is also unhappy; her mother is not with her and her father- the reader is not told why- and we see Ella left at home whilst her father is working, lonely and miserable.
Haunting images and words combine perfectly meaning 'Thornhill' does not take long to read, but it is a story which lingers with you once finished.
Thornhill Pam Smy
David Fickling Books ISBN: 978-1910200612