A fun read for children aged seven and over based around an inspired idea – a popular teacher who transforms into an out of control creature.
Jake’s nervous about starting his new school. His class teacher, Mr Hyde, is new too but, unlike Jake, he has a reason to be worried. Although class 5b quickly decide that Mr Hyde is the best teacher they’ve ever had, they also discover a problem – whenever he experiences a strong emotion Mr Hyde starts to glow and transforms into a naughty, farting, biscuit-loving creature. Suddenly their teacher is wrecking the classroom and they need to work together to find a way to turn the creature back into their teacher before their evil headmistress finds out.
Wacky and immensely fun, this story includes some hilarious scenarios. I particularly enjoyed the part when Jake smuggles the teacher-creature out of school and takes him home to stay the night. Jake prays none of his family will notice but his little sister barges into his room and becomes convinced the creature’s really a cute little doggy while his Granny starts to confuse the creature with Jake.
The book doesn’t try to be realistic and it’s such an enjoyable read that I’m happy to accept some quite absurd premises, not least of which is the mayhem-mad creature-teacher. The only point I found hard to buy into was the Headmistress’ punishment system – setting students to undertake the building work for the school on what she terms the ‘Rockery’. I also doubt a modern day child would really turn a picture of their teacher into Elvis Presley: I couldn’t help wondering whether the target audience for this book would know who Presley was. These are both, however, incredibly picky points that in no way spoiled my enjoyment of the story.
The illustrations by David O’Connell are superb. The cartoon people don’t personally appeal to me but, as an adult, I’m hardly the target audience and – given the popularity of the illustrations of Tony Ross, Nick Sharratt and more recently Alex T Smith – I suspect children will adore them. I certainly love every picture of Mr Hyde when he transforms into the creature. And there are plenty of these. I especially like the little random pictures of the creature that start every chapter. Quite why he’s eating a sandwich at the start of chapter one and sleeping above the title of chapter two remains a mystery but I simply don’t care given the pictures make me smile every time I look at them.
Overall this is an incredibly fun read that I would recommend for anyone who enjoys stories from the likes of Roald Dahl or. I’m way (and I’m not prepared to admit how far) outside the target age range but I’ll certainly be looking out for book two – ‘‘Creature Teacher Goes Wild’’. If you enjoyed this, why not try another slightly surreal adventure such as Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre.
Date: April 2015
Publisher: OUP Oxford
Author: Sam Watkins
Review first published on The Bookbag