Monday, September 29, 2008

Mystery on the rooftops of London

I fell in love with Chris Riddell's whimsical Ottoline and the Yellow Cat this summer, so I was excited to see that he has written two other series (with co-author Paul Stewart): The Edge Chronicles and Far-Flung Adventures. I also noticed a new series they are writing together, so I ordered the first one from my library, and I'm glad I did!

Barnaby Grimes is a tick-tock lad: "a sort of cross between a messenger and a delivery boy, only a tick-tock lad has to be faster than the first and twice as sharp as the second." He carries messages and items quickly and competently from one place to another in foggy, soot-covered Victorian London, often leaping madly across the rooftops to get to his destination.

One night, up on the roofs, he encounters an enormous, slavering beast that attacks him with its dagger-sharp teeth. This encounter sparks a chain of events that involves scientists, patent medications, expensive furs, glue factories, disappearing friends, street thugs, and eccentric and colorful characters, including a very pretty dressmaker's assistant. Barnaby is a quick study, luckily for him, but it's going to take more than fast thinking to save his skin in this gripping (and funny) mystery!

The illustrations were a wonderful accompaniment to the text, making the book appear extremely spookier than it actually is (and thus, one hopes, encouraging many devotees of "horror" fiction like the Goosebumps series to branch out and take a chance on something new). The print is nice and large, but the authors do not pull any punches with vocabulary, so that Barnaby, who tells the story, uses language that feels natural to the Victorian setting.

I am very much looking forward to trying the other two series these talented authors (and illustrator) have written. And yes, now I'm in the unenviable position of having to wait for the next book in this enjoyable new series to be published! Ah, well - I'm certain it will be worth the wait.

Barnaby Grimes: Curse of the Night Wolf (#1 in the Barnaby Grimes series) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (David Fickling Books, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
Making Stuff up for a Living


  1. This one sounds interesting. I especially like it that you mentioned the vocabulary words in your review.

  2. Hi, Amber - Thanks for stopping by! I did like the combination of large text and many beautiful illustrations with a few hard-hitting vocabulary words - not daunting at all for young readers who are interested in the story!

  3. I have the first of the Edge books to read which I picked up last time I was in Liverpool but just haven't fotten around it. I will bump it up the list now thanks for the review.

  4. Rhinoa - I'll be curious to hear what you think when you get to it. I definitely plan to read both of the other series. The ones I've read so far are a lot of fun!


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