Treasure of the golden skull by Chris Priestley
Maudlin Towers Book 2. Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408873106
(Age: 9-12) Themes: Boarding school. Pirates. Treasure. Monsters. Chris Priestley's Treasure of the golden skull is a dark tale, set in a very gloomy English boarding school, Maudlin Towers, which is threatened with foreclosure. The author conjures up a fast-paced story, adding a dash of magic, time travel, a treasure hunt and a pirate invasion. There's a gothic air to Priestley's black and white illustrations reminiscent of Ronald Searle's St. Trinian's, with caricatures of boys in old-style uniforms and a motley crew of pirates who invade the school.
Sponge and Mildew return for another drama-filled story, determined to find the treasure supposedly stored away by Reverend Brimstone. The finances are needed to pay for the repairs to the school building. The two boys believe they'll be sent to different schools if the governors shut Maudlin Towers, so they plan a rescue mission. This involves a swarm of pirates calling themselves teachers and an odd new boy, whose surname is Newboy and who has strange powers to get everyone to do exactly what he says. There's also a strange teacher with tattoos and a beard, a sad English teacher pining for her long-lost love and clues hidden in some unusual places for the boys to discover.
Treasure of the golden skull is silly, a little irreverent, quintessentially English and humorous with witty dialogue and filled with funny new words. 'How are you ever going to detectivate? Finlay Feathering wouldn't let a bit of biscuitlessness bother him,' Mildew tells Sponge in the staff graveyard.
Readers from ages 9-12 will enjoy this spooky story and relate to the slightly madcap antics of the two protagonists.