Sunday, October 25, 2015

Grandpa's Great Escape, by David Walliams

Staff review by Chris Saliba

A new book by David Walliams is always reason for cheerfulness. His latest adventure, Grandpa’s Great Escape, ticks all the boxes for laughs, fun, great characters and clever storytelling.

The year is 1983. Jack Bunting is your average 12-year-old school boy. He’s a bit shy, not a great performer in class. Both his parents couldn’t be more average. Mr Bunting is an accountant and Barbara Bunting, Jack’s mother, staffs the cheese counter at the local supermarket. One special person, however, fills Jack’s humdrum existence with excitement and fun: his Grandpa, who was a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Grandpa has many an exciting story to tell Jack about his days in the RAF and both love nothing more than to spend hours in each other’s company.

There’s just one problem. Grandpa is starting to get a bit forgetful and Jack’s parents want to put him in the dreaded Twilight Towers retirement home, run by the formidable matron Miss Swine and her muscular lackeys Nurse Rose, Nurse Blossom and Nurse Daisy. As Grandpa’s fading memory transports him more and more to the past, he mistakes Twilight Towers for the Nazi prisoner-of-war camp, Colditz Castle. Needless to say, Nurse swine is confused for the Kommandant. To complete Grandpa's delusions, he will only answer to the title Wing Commander. Some of the best comedy in the novel comes from Grandpa’s quixotic character, as he interprets everything as a great escape from evil Nazi forces.

All is resolved when Grandpa, with Jack’s help, manages to escape and Twilight Towers is exposed as being run by a criminal racket. The adventure over, Walliams wraps up his story with a very moving message about the power of memory to keep special relationships alive forever.

Grandpa’s Great Escape is a winner on all counts. The story is brilliantly plotted, full of madcap  invention and surprises. While there is a hilarious cast of wicked villains and goofy supporting characters, the stand out is Grandpa, who is consistently funny. Walliams writes Grandpa’s dialogue with perfect pitch, drawing him as a mix of Don Quixote and Colonel Blimp. He is both endearing and eccentric.

This is a story that is goofy, nutty and relentlessly silly, but one that also has a good heart.

Ages 9+

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