Friday 31 March 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 31st March 2017 - "The Demon Headmaster: Total Control" by Gillian Cross (Oxford Children's Books)

Oh my, he's back! The fuel for many of my childhood nightmares is back...!
I distinctly remember seeing the very first copies of "The Demon Headmaster" appearing in our school library. Bear in mind that this was a long time before Terrence Hardiman's chilling portrayal of the hynotic head teacher that became an instant hit on children's TV.

As a kid (even as a miscreant 14 year old) I loved any books that felt a little subversive. I mean, the idea of insinuating that a head teacher could be a megalomaniac control freak who hypnotised kids into doing as they were told and behaving 'just so' was just such a fantastic idea.

So now a whole new generation of kids get to be terrified by Gillian Cross's amazing imagination and her most terrifying character, for there's a whole new "Demon Headmaster" book imminently arriving in July and we've been lucky enough to nab a very early proof.

"The Demon Headmaster: Total Control" is set in a new school, with new kids - and new challenges but the same nefarious head ready to take charge (what on EARTH would OFSTED say!)

The story starts out with Lizzie, who has noticed something weird going on at school. Everyone is good at something. But at Lizzie's school this has been taken to extremes. Her classmate Ethan, who previously had no interest in sport, is now incredible at football; her brother's suddenly an expert in robotics; and Lizzie (unfortunately) has changed from a star pupil into a bit of a miscreant.

Lizzie can't understand why her memory is failing, and why half the time she feels like her actions are not her own. That's just part of a bigger puzzle and one that's baking her brain until it hurts!

But what of the others? How come they've suddenly changed so much? And why can't they talk about it? It's as though they have no power over their own actions. Could this be something to do with the mysterious new headmaster . . . ? 

Brought bang up to date with contemporary references and in-jokes that kids like Charlotte can fully engage with and understand, Gillian is hugely talented and it's fabulous to see this new book ready to give kids the odd headmaster-related nightmare (and look at the fantastic cover, if that doesn't hypnotise you into buying it then nothing will - sadly our notes didn't list a cover artist but we'd be happy to credit them as they're also redesigning all the covers for the classic books too!)

Charlotte has a bit of a love/hate relationship with 'scary' books - but she seized this one with a "Whoop!" and devoured it more or less in one sitting. So that sounds like a huge thumbs up and a great excuse to pick up the earlier books now they're being re-released alongside this new volume.

I think she loves the way that it feels like it's been written for kids her age and brought bang up to date with contemporary references and situations. Quite often if I recommend classic books to her that I loved, she'll struggle through as they're often very much of the age. But "Total Control" is really bang on for kids her age and in her generation. 

We'll leave the final words to the headmaster himself in the form of the aforementioned Terrence Rattigan who really did such an excellent job of making a book character so utterly and completely terrifying back in the dim and distant 80s. 

Charlotte's favourite bit: Lizzie, the sort of fantastic character to serve as a perfect foil for the Demon Headmaster himself!

Daddy's favourite bit: So many memories of the original, and it's fantastic to see that the new book is every bit as brilliant as the older titles are. Pick up the lot, you won't be disappointed!

(Kindly sent for review)

"The Demon Headmaster: Total Control" is out on 6th July 2017, published by Oxford Children's Books.