Review: The Demon Headmaster!

In keeping with The Apple Core’s first issue about writing suspense, I thought I’d talk about a great children’s book that I read when I was younger, The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross.

I read this book when I was about 9 or 10 years old and immediately loved it! I still have my copy and will pass it along to my daughter when she’s old enough in the hopes that she enjoys it, too. In this novel, Dinah is an orphan who has spent the first 10 years of her life in a children’s home. She moves in with a foster family, the Hunters, and must adapt to having two brothers, one of whom (Lloyd) seems extremely upset about having a sister! Besides hanging up pictures of flowers and ballerina’s, a new sister (he believes) will mess up things at school. This is our first clue that all is not well …

Harvey, the younger and friendlier brother, is philosophical about Dinah moving in: “Might be a good thing. She might be on our side. Another Normal.” Lloyd is doubtful: “No, she’ll be one of them.” We are left to wonder what on earth is going on at that school!

While waiting to go inside on her first day, Dinah notices that the kids don’t run around and play like normal kids — they walk in single-file lines and stand in groups reciting their times-tables. Things get even stranger when the headmaster (British version of the principal) calls the students into an assembly… Later, Dinah can’t remember anything that happened. Everyone is scared stiff of the headmaster, but why? Dinah is determined to find out!

The book was first published in 1982 but has been reprinted several times since then and even (I found out recently) was made into a TV series! I also discovered that Gillian Cross has written several more books about Dinah’s adventures with the Demon Headmaster. I’m reluctant to read the others, as I love this first one so much I worry that the others won’t be as good and will somehow spoil it! Here’s my battered old copy; the cover is so wacky, I love it!


P.S. Full Disclosure: Southern Bend Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This basically means, that if you choose to click on a link and buy a book from Amazon, Southern Bend Books could potentially earn a few pennies, which Louisa will then put back into the business of creating books!



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