It's About: A Victorian-era tick-tock lad named Barnaby Grimes, who- in the course of delivering messages as one of the few surviving highstacking couriers in London- uncovers a philanthropic doctor's fiendish secret. I have to tell you guys, I loved this book. I loved it like crazy. I finished it in one sitting, and seriously had to restrain myself from getting up to write the review just then. I intended to wait until my son- who is enduring Marching Band camp right now- could read it, but I just couldn't.
Seriously, I love this book. The language is challenging- both in reading level (herpetological, confidentiality, paramount,) but also in setting the era scene (medicaments, drayman, mudlarks.) But the beautiful thing is, the language is challenging in a way that it's exciting to read. Stewart and Riddell have brilliantly captured the breathless excitement of pulp novels and penny dreadfuls.
This book is full of brightly drawn characters, from Old Benjamin the coachman, to Henrietta the Landlady, who used to be the circus' Painted Lady; I especially enjoyed the wacky doctor PB, who hires Barnaby to spy on bullfinches, believing they may actually be vicious carnivores. Barnaby himself has exactly the right mix of invincibility and humanity to make a great pulp hero.
Anyone who knows how the old horror serials go can guess by the title the contents of the plot, but young readers especially, will love both how vivid the horror sequences are, and how much fun the action sequences are. The illustrations are pitch perfect, very Charles Gibson meets Edward Gorey, and the text is peppered with teases of other adventures that I look forward to reading about in future installments.
Would I Give This Book to a Kid: I plan to give this book to *several* kids, and a handful of teenagers.
Would I Give This Book to an Adult: Absolutely; I think my husband and my stepfather particularly will enjoy it.