Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Barnaby Grimes: Return of the Emerald Skull

Barnaby Grimes: Return of the Emerald Skull

Paul Stewart , Chris Riddell
Fiction  Series
For ages 9 to 12
Random House UK, 2008   ISBN: 978-0552556224

Barnaby Grimes has been given a new assignment. He has to take some new glasses to the headmaster of Grassington Hall, a highly respected school for boys. To Barnaby's relief the school is well run, and the students seem to be happy. In his time Barnaby has seen many schools where things were altogether different; schools where the boys were half starved and ill-used by their teachers.

The headmaster of the school, one Archimedes Barnett, is a cheerful fellow who just happens to have a passion for collecting stuffed birds. A new specimen will be arriving by ship in a week's time and he hires Barnaby to collect the package for him from the docks.

Barnaby goes to the docks at the appointed time and he collects the package from the Ipanema, though he does have quite a scare when he encounters two very unnerving characters in the swirling fog. Thoroughly spooked, Barnaby takes the package to Mr. Barnett.

Some time later, and quite by chance, Barnaby discovers that something is amiss at Grassington Hall. Being the kind of young man who cannot let things be when something is wrong, Barnaby goes to the school to see what is going on. At first he thinks that the school has become like so many others, that it has become a "lock-up academy" where the students are ill-treated. But, after sneaking into the grounds, he discovers that the situation at the school is far worse. Something has happened to the students; they have become terrifyingly violent and bloodthirsty, and they appear to be under the influence of some malevolent power.

Once again Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell have created a tale that will make spines tingle and that will utterly captivate readers. The story is beautifully paced, and from the very beginning, because of the contents of chapter one, readers know that Barnaby is going to get himself into a very unpleasant situation at some point during the story. The suspense is delicious, the characters are memorable, and the artwork is, as always, outstanding. Readers are encouraged to visit the Barnaby Grimes website where they will learn all kinds of things about this very special boy and his adventures.