Gillian Cross brings a new twist to this hugely successful series. Ms Martin is a Headteacher the reader will genuinely like but why is she acting so strangely? Is she, perhaps, being influenced by someone else?
Hazelbrook Academy has a new Headteacher. Ms Martin is full of enthusiasm and innovative educational ideas. However, while life for the students at Hazelbrook is improving, it’s going downhill for everyone else: the Headteachers of the other local schools are acting strangely (setting impossible homework, insisting all lessons are taught in the swimming pool, and abandoning the regular curriculum in favour of cleaning). The pupils are quick to protest and parents demand the Headteachers resign. One by one, the governors of each of the schools bring in educational consultants “New World” to replace the disgraced Headteachers. Only Hazelbrook Academy seems unaffected. Ethan and Lizzie can’t help wondering why. Is someone co-ordinating the strange behaviour of the Headteachers? Is it to help “New World” take over? Before they can find out more, our friends are split up and Lizzie finds herself whisked away on a school trip that will prove to be an experience of a lifetime – but not necessarily in a good way.
The seventh in The Demon Headmaster series, it’s impressive that author – Gillian Cross – is able to come up with such an original and interesting variant. The latest book has a new twist, introducing a Headteacher whom we actually like. Indeed, it’s almost impossible not to love a Headteacher who roars with laughter in response to being christened Ms Mountain. Even when she begins to act strangely, and irresponsibly, we can’t help routing for her (also because we strongly suspect that she’s being influenced by someone else).
It wasn’t hard to guess who is really behind the increasingly weird events, and I’m assuming most middle-grade readers will also have a pretty good idea. Fortunately, this doesn’t in any way spoil the reading experience. Instead, it probably increases the turn-the-page factor as we’re keen to find out whether we’re right.
It’s also fun to have a school story move beyond the traditional setting. The scenes on the school trip on a remote island are short and dramatic, making the book hard to put down in these climatic chapters. Interestingly, however, it’s the scenes with Ethan back at school that gripped me the most in this section.
There are quite a lot of characters to keep track of and it’s testament to Gillian Cross’s skill as a writer than the story remains so easy to follow. It does, perhaps, help that I’ve read and reviewed the previous book – The Demon Headmaster: Total Control. You may find it useful to read this before beginning to read The Demon Headmaster Mortal Danger.
If you enjoyed this, it’s definitely worth reading the other books in The Demon Headmaster series. You could start with the now classic The Demon Headmaster or the second book, The Demon Headmaster and the Prime Minister’s Brain.
Publication date: February 2019
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Author’s website: Gillian Cross