Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Bah! Humbug! is Michael Rosen’s modern-day take on Scrooge

Bah! Humbug!, by Michael Rosen/Illustrated by Tony Ross, (Sept. 2018, Walker Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536204797

Ages 8-12

A Christmas Carol enters a new century with Michael Rosen’s middle grade update, Bah! Humbug! Harry Gruber is so excited to be Scrooge in his school’s production of A Christmas Carol, but he wishes his father, workaholic Ray, would muster even a little bit of interest. Ray sees Harry’s event as one more thing keeping him from work, which keeps everyone in Ray’s family fed and living comfortably, and he never misses a chance to let everyone know it. The family – Harry, his sister, Eva, mom Lisa, and Ray – pile into the car and drive to school, with Ray grumbling all the way. While Harry shines on stage as Scrooge, Ray sneaks off to work – and gets some Christmas visits of his own.

Bah! Humbug! uses the school performance as a parallel to Ray’s own Christmas Carol, where he experiences some ghostly visits – after a fashion – of his own. A Christmas Carol is more relevant than ever in this 24-hour society, where we can all work nonstop and chase after the next big thing: a new PlayStation; a new car; a new vacation. The story moves between the play, letting readers relive Dickens’ holiday classic, and the present, as Harry’s heart breaks time and again over his dad’s seeming ignorance and Ray wrestles with his own demons, past and present. Kids may recognize their own families in this one, but remember: Dickens wrote the story to show readers that there’s always time to change the future.

A section called “Party Like a Fezziwig” has tasty recipes, games, jokes, and Christmas carols. There’s a note about the tradition of Victorian holiday storytelling, and a biographical note about Dickens and A Christmas Carol. Tony Ross’s black and white illustrations throughout the story keep readers engaged in the story and the school play. A nice add to your middle grade holiday collection. Read a sample chapter at Candlewick’s website.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Grandpa’s Great Escape is brilliantly funny and touching

grandpaGrandpa’s Great Escape, by David Walliams/Illustrated by Tony Ross, (Feb. 2017, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062560896

Recommended for ages 8-12

I’ve been a David Walliams fan since the decidedly un-kid-friendly UK show, Little Britain; his children’s books have just made me love him that much more. He and illustrator Tony Ross are this generation’s Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake; bringing hilariously dry British humor with a touch of true affection to American audiences. Demon Dentist introduced readers to Alfie, a kid taking care of his father while fighting a dentist from hell. In Grandpa’s Great Escape, we head back to 1983 to meet Jack and his grandpa, a World War II flying ace who shares his stories with Jack. Grandpa is Jack’s absolute favorite person in the world, so when Grandpa starts forgetting things, Jack becomes the only person who knows how to communicate with him: by addressing the Wing Commander on his own battlefield. But Grandpa starts wandering, and Jack’s parents make the worst possible choice ever: to send Grandpa to Twilight Towers, a questionable old-age home run by the very questionable Matron Swine. It’s up to Jack to save Grandpa!

Grandpa’s Great Escape is laugh-out loud hilarious while addressing the stress of watching a grandparent grow older. Where people around him see Grandpa as a nuisance, a danger to himself and others, or both, Jack sees his World War II hero; his playmate; his best friend. He’ll never give up on Grandpa, and Grandpa will never give up on Jack. Jack draws on the life lessons Grandpa taught him to save his best friend: and take him on one last mission.

A must-add to any collection, and a great book to have on hand for discussions about grandparents and aging. Take a look at David Walliams’ website for more about his books, and special features – like newsagent Raj’s shop!