The first of three books, a fascinating teen fantasy, made even more interesting by the unique way it began. The author has several friends who collect odd photographs they find at flea markets and antique shops. I mean REALLY odd photographs of floating children, strange costumes, weird looking families, and other oddities. Ransom assembled a group of these pictures and hypothesized that these were really pictures of children with odd powers, collected together at a school on a small island off the coast of Wales in the 1940’s.
When Jacob Portman was young, he was fascinated by his grandfather, Abe Portman. Grandpa Portman told wild stories of fighting the Nazis, being a spy, and performing in circuses. He had a weird collection of photographs which featured strange children. The rest of his family assumed these were all made up, and even Jacob had his doubts – until he saw his Grandpa murdered by a wolf-like creature. Jacob persuades his father to take him on a summer trip to the island of Cairnholm, where his grandfather said he was moved as a refugee when he was 12. There Jacob discovers that the school is still there and that time has stopped for the children his grandfather knew.
This novel is an eerie combination of Brigadoon and Harry Potter, with Nazi bombs and evil adversaries. Clever characterization and sharp writing help keep a meandering plot from becoming confusing. Much better than the movie.