Impossible! by Michelle Magorian

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Impossible! by Michelle Magorian

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: Excitement and drama set in the world of the theatre at the end of the 1950s, with fictional characters mixing with real people from history. Unputdownable!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 585 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Troika Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781909991040

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Josie is twelve, and would much rather be a boy. She attends a stage school and we first meet her being criticised by her Headmistress for having had her hair cut short, in the hope of playing a boy’s part in a show.

Set in 1959, this is almost reminiscent of Noel Streatfeild at first: a talented and determined child trying to make her way in the world while adults conspire to make things difficult. And Josie’s school staff, by and large, are terrible. It’s more a finishing school than anything; children with local accents are taught to speak 'correctly', and the dance and drama classes are designed to make the students look showy rather than to teach them any skills.

Somehow other students manage to get parts in shows, but Josie is assured that with her short hair she won't be considered. She doesn't fit in with the other people in her class, particularly when - due to her academic abilities - she is promoted twice.

There are rather a lot of people introduced in the first few chapters of the book and I found myself a little bewildered at times with all the different names. However, this didn't matter much as the writing is crisp and fast-paced, and Josie is a believable and likeable child. Inevitably she does get a part in a play, to her Headmistress’s disgust, and then finds herself embroiled in a very unpleasant situation due to mistaken identity…

I have to admit to a sinking feeling when I received this book. It was not the 200-page children’s book I had expected, but a 585-page tome to rival the longer Harry Potter books. I started reading on December 3rd, and doubted if I would find the time to finish it before Christmas.

Today is December 6th and I finished it this morning. I read this book with my breakfast, I picked it up every spare moment of the day, and kept reading at night long past my bedtime. It was almost impossible to put down. There’s tension and excitement, both on stage and in the events off-stage, and Josie proves herself courageous and loyal in many ways.

The fictional families - including Josie’s - are seamlessly woven into the stage history of the era. It took me a while to realise that the locations and theatre groups mentioned were real ones, as were some of the people. Josie takes part in workshops and a production that actually happened, directed by someone who is, apparently, now considered the founder of modern theatre techniques. I was a little disappointed that there was no epilogue explaining which parts of the book were based on reality, although there were some credits to quotations from the plays and musicals involved. But perhaps it doesn’t matter.

If I have a niggle with the book, it’s that it seems to be overtly educational in places, with slightly forced conversations when characters inform each other about parts of a theatre, or how a film is made. Perhaps this is necessary in today’s society when books are chosen for their value in the National Curriculum. I mostly skimmed those parts: either I knew the information already, or didn’t wish to be educated in the middle of an exciting story. It wasn’t really a problem, since I suspect that these snippets would be very interesting to children. It was certainly not enough of a niggle to remove even half a star from my rating.

With a main character of twelve, I assume that this novel is intended for the 10-12 age group, the kind of children who have not been daunted by the length of JK Rowling’s books. I am hesitant to recommend it to a nine-year-old friend of mine, due to some of the subject matter, although it’s dealt with extremely well. I think in a year or so she would be ready for it.

All in all, this is an amazing book. Many thanks to the publishers for sending to The Bookbag.

If you haven't read it already, please don't miss Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian for which she is best known.

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Buy Impossible! by Michelle Magorian at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Impossible! by Michelle Magorian at


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