Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-Offs

Ten year old Elspeth Hart is the clever, funny, resourceful heroine of Sarah Forbes’ two (so far) humorous novels for children aged about 6-10 years – Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-Offs and Elspeth Hart and the Perilous Voyage.

Elspeth is the Cinderella of the Pandora Pants School for Show-Offs. Supposedly in the care of the revolting cook, Miss Crab, and her dim-witted, smelly sidekick, Gladys Goulash, Elspeth finds herself there when her parents are – allegedly – washed away in a flood. Elspeth spends her days sweeping up mouse-droppings destined for school dinners and her nights sleeping in a wardrobe in Miss Crabb’s attic. Elspeth’s only friends are the meek Rory Snitter and his chocolate-eating pet lizard. Their sworn-enemy is Tatiana Firensky, the biggest show-off of all.  When the school is embroiled in a dastardly plot involving an extra-special sticky toffee sauce recipe, it’s up to Elspeth to save the day.

Her adventures continue in book two, when Elspeth and Rory find themselves stowing away on a decadent ocean-liner, chasing Miss Crab and Gladys Goulash who have escaped prison with the famous recipe; a recipe Elspeth learns was created by her own missing parents…

Sarah Forbes’ stories are genuinely funny – and disgusting: nose-picking, snot-sliding, knicker-showing – in a way destined to appeal to younger children, and to be appreciated by adults for her well-written, racing-along plot. Even reading the books to my 5 year old, he did pause a few times early on to ask me ‘could that really happen?’ but once reassured that changed to ‘that can’t really happen can it, but it’s funny’.

Forbes achieves the unlikely childhood independence of Enid Blyton and the (not quite so dark) gruesomeness of Roald Dahl, and in doing so is setting up a series that both girls and boys will enjoy – although later novels might want to feature Rory or something more ‘boyish’ on the covers because, like it or not, even the 5 year old was suspicious that these were ‘girl-stories’.

That said, James Brown’s illustrations are great; plentiful enough to ensure the text isn’t too dense and they complement the words wonderfully.

An enticing addition to any child’s book collection.



The Elspeth Hart books are produced by Litter Tiger Press at Stripes Publishing, priced at £5.99 each. Also available as eBooks.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *