Whenever I write a new book, I get the luxury of choosing who to dedicate it to. My child, of course (several times, as she has a habit of checking), my friend’s children, and my friends as well. But when I finished writing The Worst Class in the World, I had someone different in mind to thank. Someone who reminded me of both lead teachers in the book – the fearsome Mrs Bottomley-Blunt, who thunders down corridors in pursuit of foolish children, and the loveable Mr Nidgett, who secretly believes his class are the best of all.
You see, when I was at school, eighty bazillion years ago (yes, there were dinosaurs), our world was ruled not by our headmaster, Mr Cousins, who was so invisible we weren’t actually sure he existed, but by his deputy, Mr Pett.
Mr Pett was very much visible. He would appear from behind lockers, around corners, as if from nowhere on the school field to make sure you weren’t footling, shilly-shallying, or generally doing anything stupid. We lived in fear of his roar: ‘You, girl!’ But here’s the thing: we also adored him. He couldn’t resist a joke, at his or our expense, and he took great pride in helping those of us who needed a little extra push to reach our potential.
Very sadly, Mr Pett died not long ago, to an outpouring of memories from his former students. I like to think he’d be proud of me now (and be satisfied he was right in giving me that detention). I hope he can see how appreciated he was with a whole book dedicated to him, and his best moments inspiring a whole series.
The Worst Class in the World is out tomorrow, May 14th 2020. Dedicated in memory of Nigel (Nick) Pett. January 13th 2019.