Monday, March 27, 2017

Middle Grade Fiction: Gangsta Granny


Title: Gangsta Granny
Author: David Walliams
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books, 2011. 297 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
Another hilarious and moving novel from David Walliams, number one bestseller and fastest growing children’s author in the country. A story of prejudice and acceptance, funny lists and silly words, this new book has all the hallmarks of David’s previous bestsellers.

Our hero Ben is bored beyond belief after he is made to stay at his grandma’s house. She’s the boringest grandma ever: all she wants to do is to play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup. But there are two things Ben doesn’t know about his grandma.
1) She was once an international jewel thief.
2) All her life, she has been plotting to steal the Crown Jewels, and now she needs Ben’s help…
My Review: 
I got this book thanks to our March 2017 Goodreads GMGR group read. It was a bit different this time: we were all supposed to pick books we thought had a particularly regional appeal, and might not do so well in other places. I flopped at thinking of something from my region, and I loved the blurb on this one chosen by Jemima Pett, so I read it.

First off: Though this is a distinctly British book, the fact that I find it, and most of Walliams' books, in my county library system in California suggests that maybe it's not *too* much limited to a local appeal! And I delighted in the fact that it bucked the recent trends, and the "Britishisms" in the book weren't translated for the poor, stupid American kids (can you tell that's a pet peeve?).

So, was it a good read? You bet! I enjoyed the well balanced humor and action, the valuable messages hidden inside the humor, and the generally just slightly absurd take on life. In that sense, I think it is definitely a British book, in the tradition of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, even P. G. Wodehouse. So if you think those folks are just too weird for words, maybe this won't be your book. But if you're open to a fun romp with some life lessons wrapped up in absurdity, go for it.

What else can I say? The plot is absurd, but it knows it and it means to be. I laughed aloud more than once as I zipped through this in a single sitting (despite the page count, the font and layout means it's not a terribly long book. I read it in under 2 hours). And I cried a little, too. Oh, and squirmed like crazy when poor Ben found himself on stage. The writing is at times self-reflective, with asides to the reader that also bring a smile or a laugh. I felt like Walliams has a pretty good idea what makes kids tick.

My Recommendation:
Like I say, good for those who appreciate the absurd. I think it's a book that will appeal to reluctant readers, maybe especially boys but also a lot of girls. There are lots of great pictures, by Tony Ross, and great adventures with Granny! Reading level struck me as being about 8 and up, and interest level similar--the older the reader, the more they will get from it, but young kids will enjoy the romp.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Gangsta Granny out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  


  1. Good to know it does travel. My review is my G post for the A to Z Challenge :)

    1. I look forward to it, though I suspect I got a sense of it from your comments in GMGR. I guess to really know how it plays around here I'd have to get one of the local kids to read it and let me know!


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