Published October 2012 and January 2013, Quirk Books. Hardback. List price, £10.99
Appropriate for ages 7-11.
From the cover of Professor Gargoyle:
‘Strange things are happening at Lovecraft Middle School. Rats are leaping frm lockers. Students are disappearing. The school library is a labryinth of secret coridors. and the science teacher is acting very, very, perculiar. Robert Arthur knew that seventh grade was going to be weird, but this is ridiculous!
With the help of some unlikely new friends, Robert discovers theres more to Lovecraft Middle Schol than meets the eye. Can he uncover the secrets of the school before it’s too late?’
It’s really difficult to stick to the old adage of never judging a book by its cover when you get a book with a cover like this.The lenticular covers of each book in the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series morph as you move them: the dignified looking bearded man becomes a horned beast; the svelte, wan twin sisters become scaled hydras. It’s sure to pull in reluctant readers and it made me want to dive in immediately.
It is, perhaps, a little odd to describe a paranormal story with an antagonist who eats live hamsters as ‘comforting’ and ‘warm’, but that’s exactly what the first two books in Charles Gilman’s middle readers series are. Similar to RL Stein’s Goosebumps but far wittier, far creepier and far more intelligently written, Professor Gargoyle and Slither Sisters follow awkward pre-teen everykid Robert Arthur as he arrives at the newly built state-of-the-art Lovecraft Middle School, a place where the mysterious, gilt and dust world of the supernatural sits beside the digital chalkboard and brightly anonymous fittings of a super-modern school campus.
The stories are engrossing. What child does not fantasize that their science teacher might secretly be a demon or the cool, popular girls running for class President Medusa- headed monsters? This is the force that drives the series, which, though inspired by HP Lovecraft, has none of his overwrought prose. It’s clear Gilman knows his characters inside out and cares deeply for his audience. Never condescending, always bright and often funny, its difficult to find a downside to Gilman’s storytelling.
Intertexual references to Lovecraft abound. Monsters are borrowed from the Cthulhu Mythos, philosophising that,
The Great Old Ones have the intelligence of ten thousand men combined. We should not question their actions.
Professor Gargoyle, p. 73
Though the books don’t explore too deeply Lovecraftian philosophy the groundwork is laid for future books in the series to delve further. In another nod to Lovecraft the books’ accompanying website plays Camille Saint-Saëns Dance Macabre. Read the rest of this entry