The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross

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The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jason Mark Curley
Reviewed by Jason Mark Curley
Summary: Fantastic mystery in what now must be viewed as a classic.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 106 Date: June 2009
Publisher: OUP
ISBN: 978-0192755827

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Lloyd and Harvey Hunter don't like their school, they don't like it at all. As far as they can see there are only five normal students in the whole place. When their parents decide to foster Dinah Glass – a girl about the same age as them, they wonder if she'll be one of the normal ones or if she'll fall under the spell of the scary headmaster.

On the morning of her first day at the school, she finds herself in the headmaster's office. He refuses to look at her previous records and makes her take a test. Even though she knows most of the answers, she cleverly drops a few of them to try to avoid undue attention. After she finishes, the headmaster hypnotises her and she wakes up hours later, told she had fallen asleep and unaware of anything that had happened.

The children at the school are like no others she has ever met. They are all so perfectly well behaved, as far as working during breaktimes. Her foster brothers and their small group of friends seem to be the only normal children there. And, even with her new family members reticent to help her, she becomes determined to find out what's going on.

This is one book I'd heard about long before I ever got the chance to read it. I was aware it was a successful children's TV show a while back. Things do move very fast in children's literature and I was expecting this to feel a little dated but that was one worry that was totally unfounded. It still seems very fresh to me.

The greatest asset of this book is the speed with which the author gets to the good stuff; it's a gripping read from the first chapter. The characters are well founded and not at all obvious. The only problem I had with them was with Dinah being the major focus. To me, Lloyd was a much more interesting and deeper character; had this been a film I'd have said he stole the show. It just put things a little off balance for me, but then, I guess everyone will have their fave character.

The writing, in places, also seemed a little odd, but not in a wholly bad way, just within the imagery and word choices. I'd describe it as being slightly Carnival with every light and dark nuance that suggests. I could almost see the embryology of Darren Shan within this book and that can be no bad thing.

Also, as this is part of a series, I think it's an excellent choice for the tween bookshelf. I will read the rest now, and, if I was still a kid, I'd probably go back to them time and time again.

If you enjoyed this, I'd recommend The Thirteen Treasures and The Trap.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending me this review copy.

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