Saturday 16 December 2017

Books: Read-aloud bedtime yarn from crowd-pleaser Walliams

Children's: Grandpa's Great Escape, David Walliams, HarperCollins, pbk, 352 pages, €10.99

High praise: David Walliams has been described as a successor to Roald Dahl.
High praise: David Walliams has been described as a successor to Roald Dahl.
Grandpa's Great Escape

Best known up to now for Little Britain and all his other comic creations, David Walliams is now becoming even more famous as a children's author. He is now the bestselling children's writer in Ireland and the UK and his latest book, Grandpa's Great Escape, has flown to number one in both territories.

His previous books, including Awful Auntie and Demon Dentist, have sold almost five million copies, earning him over £7.5m to date, and his fourth picture book, The Bear Who Went Boo!, is out in November.

Grandpa's Great Escape takes place in 1983, "a time before the internet and mobile phones and computer games". Jack is 12-years-old and adores his grandpa, a fighter pilot in World War II and now an old man.

Grandpa believes it's 1940 and he's still in the RAF. When Grandpa cuts food up and shares it out because of "rationing", Jack thinks it's charming. When Grandpa hurtles down a supermarket aisle in a shopping trolley, hurling bags of flour "bombs" into the air, Jack thinks it's hilarious. But Jack's parents don't find Grandpa's dementia so funny and when the elderly man climbs the church spire and almost kills himself, the vicar suggests Twilight Towers, a home for "unwanted old folk" - but Grandpa is determined to escape.

The book is carefully designed with lots of diagrams and illustrations - there's even a text designer thanked in the credits - which adds to its appeal and readability. Tony Ross's line drawings are exuberant and well executed; his Twilight Towers is truly ominous, more Colditz than care home.

Walliams has been described as Dahl's successor and there are certainly echoes of Dahl here as the author was once a Wing Commander in the RAF. But they are very different writers: Dahl wasn't interested in pleasing anyone, he had a naturally grim and twisted way of looking at the world and his prose always sang. Walliams is a crowd-pleaser, shoehorning humour and grossness into situations to keep readers amused; his writing can be clunky at times and some scenes are overly long.

However, if you are looking for a good read-aloud bedtime yarn and would like to learn more about World War II fighter planes into the bargain, then this book won't disappoint.

Sarah Webb's latest book for children is Sunny Days and Mooncakes, Walker Books

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