Leigh Hobbs, Freaks on the Loose, Allen & Unwin, Jan 2018, 240pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781760294311
Freaks on the Loose is going to appeal to the mischievous core of any kid (young or old). It contains two books in the Freaks series, the first of which is 4F is for Freaks, in which Miss Corker is introduced to the class of 4F.
Miss Corker is a young, sweet teacher introduced to the most obviously mischievous of classes in 4F. And when I say obviously, readers just have to take a look at the hilarious illustrations to see what I mean. Students include Frowning Fran, Feral Beryl and Strange Sidney to name a few. Let’s not forget Nearly-Normal Nancy with her three eyes.
These students and the rest of their class band together to get rid of Miss Corker who is far too nice and too out of her depth for them. Though to be fair, it’s something they’ve done with every teacher assigned to Class 4F. And yes, the “F” in 4F does stand for Freaks.
I wasn’t entirely sure about the use of the word “Freak” in the story, but Hobbs exaggerates the students to the point that it robs the word of anything mean, and it actually becomes funny. Even more so when Miss Corker dons her own freak disguise to be able to fit in with the class, and have them respond to her.
There are two books in Freaks on the Loose and the second is Freaks Ahoy, in which Miss Corker, in disguise as Miss Schnorkel heads with her class on a boat trip, only to find themselves on a cruise ship filled with teachers looking for an escape from their classrooms. Poor Miss Schnorkel, now stuck in her disguise, takes a time out for herself, only to wake up to find her class running riot with the poor teachers.
Miss Schnorkel, looking like one of her class, easily makes the 4F class listen to her when she corrals them into activities to keep them busy and out of the other teachers’ hair. It’s a wonderful thing to see that the normal Miss Corker working so hard to get the class to accept her as one of them that she dons this disguise.
The story is not without a small twist or two that I haven’t spoiled, but reiterates the message that Miss Corker wants the “freaks” to like her, and happily does everything she could to fit in with them.
Reviewed by Verushka Byrow