Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Great Granny Gang by Judith Kerr (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Here they come, a force to be reckoned with - The Great Granny Gang! Smelling sweetly of lavender, hopped up on bonfire toffee and Werthers Originals, they're ready to pitch in and put the world to rights.

Like an octogenarian version of The Village People, each Granny has their own special skill. One can fix cars, one's a dab hand with a pneumatic drill, one can even tame the fiercest lions or even look after your pets (yes, even your rather soppy crocodile!)

We've been looking forward to reading The Great Granny Gang for ages - and it's been out in hardback for a while. With the release of the paperback, HarperCollins kindly sent us a copy so we feel slightly guilty that this is the first Judith Kerr book that - well - to put it politely, just didn't win us over.

It's not merely because it's a tough read (the secret to a great rhyming book is that you're not falling over your own tongue trying to get the story to flow. That happened rather too many times here). It isn't merely because the "hoodies" are a bit jarring, and whiff faintly of grumbling old folk moaning about useless and unproductive teenagers while they're barking your shins and elbowing you out of the way in the post office queue, or snarling at you to keep the noise down while they're blasting out "The Archers" loudly on a peaceful sunday.

It's largely because it just doesn't feel like it belongs amongst Kerr's other books. It sticks out like a sore thumb (even though we still utterly and completely love her art style - which thankfully DOES still royally rock!) mainly because it feels like it's not conveying a story that befits the fantastic Grannies who star in it.

I've seen two other reviews of the book that put it far better than I have here. Check out Child-Led Chaos's appraisal of the hardback:

A Handful of Books Depicting Grandparents

...and also WahmBam's awesome review:

The Great Granny Gang review on WahmBam

As both have suggested, it puts a dainty granny boot through one stereotype while shoring up another.

I rather like CLC's suggestion that the story would've had a different feel (and certainly a different reaction from us) if the Great Granny Gang had been pitched against a gang of moany grumpy old grannies instead of a gang of mouthy hoodies.

On the positive side, we loved the various Mog-like moggies that pitch up in the book, and also love Kerr's other animal characters (which Charlotte thought had popped up for a cameo from Mog and the V.E.T - a book we utterly loved to pieces by Kerr). Such a shame. We'd been so looking forward to this, and it had even made it onto our Wishlist for this year but it's disappointed us greatly. Aw!

Charlotte's best bit: The animal cameos and the cats.

Daddy's favourite bit: I still love Judith Kerr to bits. She is lovely, and a wonderful old lady. Actually that's a very good point, where was the super-storytelling expert illustrator granny in the gang?

(Kindly sent to us for review by HarperCollins Children's Books).