Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Birds, Pies and Clean Laundry

Barnaby Grimes: Return of the Emerald Skull by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell

Stewart and Riddell do not disappoint in this second installment of the Barnaby Grimes story. For those of you who did not read my review of the first book in this series (Curse of the Night Wolf) here is a quick recap of Barnaby. Barnaby is a tick tock lad, a cross between a messenger and delivery boy, in the late nineteenth century London who tends to get in the middle of mysteries through no fault of his own. In this story Barnaby delivers a rare bird to a headmaster in a school just outside London. Barnaby has an uneasy feeling but it quickly disappears once he meets Mei Ling, a pretty young laundress who he starts to visit. Ling teaches Barnaby the ancient art of yinchido, which improves his mental clarity and fighting abilities. When Barnaby goes back to the school to check on a friend's son he finds something sinister is at foot and it all has to do with the package he delivered. Will Barnaby be able to break the forces of evil and free the students before more people get killed?

Overall I liked this book. It has all the elements of a good mystery/adventure and is very age appropriate (I would recommend for boys ages 7-10). My one complaint about this installment of the Barnaby Grimes story is that the Mei Ling storyline is never finished. Barnaby is supposed to visit her one day and instead heads to the school and get caught up in a plot to destroy the earth. He does stop the evil from taking over and we learn what really happened there. But we never hear if he went back and visited Mei Ling. Maybe that is a way of leaving that storyline open for the next book, but it felt a bit odd to me to not mention her at as the book was concluding. Other than that one minor complaint I thought this was a fun romp through and over London. We also get to know Barnaby and his regular clients a bit more and I think there will be some fun supporting characters featuring more prominently in the books to come. Like the last book the illustrations, in black and white, are wonderful and full of creepy details. One of the aspects I like most about these stories is Barnaby's can-do attitude. There is no task to small or too large for Barnaby and, he is not above working hard for what he wants. Again, I highly recommend and hope you enjoy.

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