“There is no going back from that first line.”


Ever since the days of Enid Blyton, school stories have fascinated children. J K Rowling gave the genre a new boost with Harry Potter and Hogwarts.

Payal Kapadia follows in this trend with her Horrid High series. The second part, return to Horrid High brings back the main characters from the first book, Ferg and Fermina. Irma, Volumina and Granny Grit along with a new cast of characters, Colonel Craven the sports master and Fracas the cook whp specialises in food fights with a crème brawlay that splinters into shards of sugar and custard. Not to mention the nervous Miss Nottynuf and Professor Bloom who teach maths and botany respectively.

Horrid High starts out as a transformed, happy school, but that would not make for an engrossing story. Instead, a horrid head is hard at work trying to undermine the new school and steal the last remaining animal and plant species on the planet for his own selfish reasons Kapadia keeps the reader unfamiliar with Horrid High I guessing as to the head’s identity.

To set the new train of events in motion, Granny Grit has to be removed, Colonel Craven takes charge by virtue of his military rank and the game is afoot. The botany teacher produces a series of gruesome plants, a missing mouse reappears in maths class and chaos caused by the Colonel’s paranoia takes over, rapidly transforming Horrid High back to its previous horridness.

At the heart of the book is the search for the Grand Plan and a hidden forest with an evil reputation. Kapadia’s inspirations, J K Rowling and Roald Dahl are fairly obvious, though one wonders why the book could not have been more Indianised and by doing so made more original. However, Horrid High Back to School has lessons to teach about respecting the environment and standing up for oneself.

It also throws in a quick history of Rome through Granny Grit – school surroundings have that advantage – the collective noun for crows and some botany. Kapadia also has a dig at the traditional school system which is revealed in the Grand Plan.

Eleven year olds would probably enjoy the book because of the mischief and mystery – but on occasion the story seems to flounder in its flow and more pace would have helped.



Reviewed by:

Anjana Basu

Added 8th February 2016

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Anjana Basu