Premise: Robert Arthur has defeated Professor Gargoyle and The Slither Sisters in Crawford Tillinghast’s plot to take over the world: by bringing his strange monsters from the supposedly destroyed Tillinghast Mansion into the grounds of Lovecraft Middle School. With help from his friends Karina Ortiz, Glenn Torkells, and the two-headed rat named Pip and Squeak, Robert was able to defeat the Price sisters by winning the election for student council president. But Robert never wanted to be student council president, so he withdrew his bid and gave the position to the friendly Howard Mergler. The problem is that Howard is really a giant bug creature in disguise with the ability to control insects to do his bidding.
Howard’s new plot is to infest the school with massive swarms of insects all over Lovecraft Middle School. What a bad time for the janitorial staff to go on strike. As student council president, Howard is trusted by the adoring faculty and staff. There are few who know what he really is, and it is up to Robert, Karina, Glenn, and their pet rat to save the day yet again. Can they defeat a massive insect army led by a giant insect general intent on taking over the world?
Themes: The strength of friendship is put to the test in Teacher’s Pest. Pip and Squeak go missing and Robert will do whatever it takes to get them back. Glenn also grows distant after he is stung by a giant wasp, so Robert attempts to connect with his bully friend. But the reasons for Glenn putting off his friends might be the one thing that Robert can relate to, if only they could be forthcoming with each other. These friends are willing to put themselves in danger for each other.
Appearances are not a good way to judge people. On the outside, Howard Mergler is a well-dressed, polite, wonderful student. On the inside, he is a cruel bug-monster plotting to take over the world. On the flip-side, Robert is a loner with almost no friends, but after his previous fights and the bravery he displays in battling dark forces, he shows that great things can come from unexpected places.
Pros: Teacher’s Pest is full of action and a sense of real danger, more so even than the previous two books. There is some interpersonal conflict not found in the previous books that isn’t necessarily germane to the plot but adds a much deeper character development for the three main characters. Even with the intense action, I thought Teacher’s Pest was more appropriate for younger children than the other books, with less of a scary horror element and more of a gross out factor. Kids will love the bugs, rats, and eyeball monsters. As with the previous two books, the shapeshifting cover is awesome.
Cons: The main characters make some odd decisions that were out of character, excepting for the disjointed thought processes of middle school students. Both Robert and Glenn treat friends terribly at some point: Robert out of fear and Glenn out of embarrassment. The behavior is built up over a considerable time, especially in the case of Glenn, and then the explanation is almost too simplistic. There were also almost no references to the work of H.P. Lovecraft apart from an instance of chanting in another language, which is kind of a disappointment for Lovecraft fans seeking elements of homage to the horror great.
Recommendations: Make sure you read the first two books in the Lovecraft Middle School series to get a lot of setup information, some of which will be necessary to understand the plot, but most of which will just make the entire experience much better. This series has very high quality writing that is easy to read. It has horror elements that might be too intense for readers on the younger end of the middle grade spectrum, though Teacher’s Pest is more appropriate for younger middle grade than the first two books. It is packed full of bugs that are sure to gross kids out, in a good way. Robert and his friends show us that kids can do great things, especially when there are teachers and mentors who support them in their efforts.
Lovecraft Middle School website
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I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.