Hell Hounds of High School
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (7/11)
High School English teacher and writer Patricia Marie Budd collaborates with illustrator Tara Nakano to create this unique book “Hell Hounds of High School.” The story provides glimpses behind the doors and typical scenes which occur in the English classroom, the principal’s office, the counselor’s desk, and the teacher’s lounge at a fictional parochial school.
Her protagonist Mrs. Pricilla Bird began her teaching career with the ideal that “there is something good in every student.” As the reality of disruptive students, out-of-control classrooms, and non-supportive school administrators and parents is seen, Mrs. Bird struggles to maintain this belief. However, she unexpectedly becomes a student advocate, as she attempts to defend her students’ actions with the other teachers.
“Hell Hounds of High School” demonstrates the extremes found in individual personalities, the bravado, the insecurity, the determination. Bird discovers the magnitude of the impact environment; family life, drugs, and abuse have in molding the personalities of her students.
Although the book is fiction, many of the episodes and characters represent a composite of Budd’s experiences of nearly twenty years of teaching. Students Greg, Mary, Frank, and Damien make up this cast of characters as well as Mrs. Bird’s peers, Miss Payne and Mr. Wood.
These students and teachers become caricatures and reveal Mrs. Bird’s cynical viewpoint of the educational system. Each chapter contains animated pen and ink drawings which add additional humor and another dimension to the narrative.
I enjoyed the segment where Mrs. Bird exchanges a hilarious series of e-mails to express her woes to a friend, Livy. Livy’s responses soothe Bird’s panic and provide her with needed encouragement and confidence.
Budd uses a writing style that combines comedic satire, a character driven plot with “cheeky” fast moving dialog, (letters and dashes allow the reader to use their imagination to fill in the blanks). Her humor is clever and colorful, sometimes demeaning, often exaggerated, not always politically correct, but admittedly funny. Budd’s earlier writing includes script writing and a historical novel. Although “Hell Hounds of High School” is a diversion from these works, elements from both genres are incorporated in this project.
Budd continues to maintain that working with students is an energizing experience. “Hell Hounds of High School” will add school administrators, teachers, and educators to her growing base of fans.