David Baddiel, Head Kid

Harper Collins, 2018, ISBN 978-0-00-820052-7

Ryan is the biggest prankster in Bracket Wood, a school that has consistently been ranked inadequate by the Offhead inspectors. Now they are due for another visit. Ryan's latest practical joke has led the headteacher to resign in despair. Mr Carter takes over. He is determined to turn the school round. If he fails it will be closed down. He imposes strict new rules and enforces them rigorously. It's not long before Ryan is called to his study after yet another caper. A strange musical box there has an extraordinary effect. When Mr Carter and Ryan wake up in hospital Ryan finds himself in the body of a 43 year-old headteacher and Mr Carter has the body of a naughty 11 year-old. No one believes their stories, so Ryan is now headteacher. His rules could not be more different to Mr Carter's. Chaos ensues. The prospect of closure brings glee to Ryan and the pupils. All but two of them. Not to Mr Carter and not to Dionna. If Bracket Wood closes she will be forced to go back to Oakcroft, the posh school where she was bullied horribly as a scholarship pupil. And Dionna is Ryan's best friend. Suddenly the imminent Offhead inspection is a terrifying threat. The only chance to stave off closure is cooperation between Ryan as Mr Carter and Mr Carter as Ryan, both of whom have begun to change in their new incarnations, and Dionna as her quick-witted self.

David Baddiel's previous novels for children have been big hits, and Head Kid is destined to be another one. The characters, particularly Ryan, will be very popular, as will the zany humour and the body-swap plot. A book that will provoke lots of laughter, it also raises important issues such as bullying, intolerance, care for family and loyalty without in any way being preachy. The illustrations by Steven Linton complement the text well.