Born to parents who are not particularly interested in raising a child, 11-year-old Ferg Gottin is dumped in a residential school called Happy High. Only, it is really Horrid High, where orphans and abandoned children are sent to be forgotten, and where the teachers specialise in being, what else, but horrid. As Ferg flounders through Master Mynus’s Maths lessons and chokes over Chef Gretta’s obnoxious cooking (her larder is stocked with maggot-infested cheeses and rats’ tails and crow feathers, for starters), he also makes firm friends with four other gifted, but unloved, children. Together, they must figure out a way to stop Principal Perverse’s wicked plan of spreading horridness near and far and making more children miserable. The first book of Payal Kapadia’s Horrid High series (her previous work Wisha Wozzariter won the 2013 Crossword Book Award for Children’s Writing) is a rollicking read, a throwback to the good old school series by Enid Blyton. Roger Dahl’s illustrations have a life of their own and do full justice to the storyline. The only gripe, if one can nitpick, is the rather conspicuous absence of an Indian context — Horrid High could just as easily be in the British countryside as in the Indian NCR.

Paromita Chakrabarti
December 6, 2014