Grandpa lives in a Maximum Security Twighlight Zone, and his Grandson attempts to set him free. Jack’s Grandpa… wears his slippers to the supermarket serves up tinned tongue for dinner and often doesn’t remember Jack’s name But he can still take to the skies in a speeding Spitfire and save the day… An exquisite portrait of the bond between a small boy and his beloved Grandpa – this book takes readers on an incredible journey with Spitfires over London and Great Escapes through the city in a high octane adventure full of comedy and heart. Illustrated by the award-winning Tony Ross.
Knowing nothing about this author, I impulsively purchased Grandpa’s Great Escape at Half Price Books because the illustrations reminded me of the same style of illustrations in Ginger Pye (Eleanor Estes) and I ADORED that book when I read it as a child. Plus, a WWII grandpa taking his grandson on a daring adventure? That just sounds so fun!
And “fun” is without a doubt the correct word for this book!
The story is one that follows a classic children’s book absurd plot that is purely for entertainment and laughs, while at the same time, introducing so much RICH historical content about World War II! It’s a really phenomenal combination! One of the main points of this book is that Jack’s history teacher is only focused on “FACTS! FACTS! FACTS!” instead of teaching history in a way that is memorable and enriching. This resonated with me so deeply because I abhorred history in school because of this exact reason. I loved history topics, museums, and learning about history in general, but history was the one subject that I hated with my entire being as a school subject because it was so utterly boring and focused on FACTS. And I feel like a lot of other kids may relate to that as well.
Introducing World War II stories into a children’s book that is so fun, makes this book a great companion read for learning about World War II topics. There’s a glossary at the back of the book that explains the terminology that Grandpa uses more in depth for an actual history lesson (though Jack does a great job of explaining it simply as you’re reading) and I actually learned a few things about World War II that I didn’t know before. Partly because this book is from a British point-of-view of the war and I’m mostly familiar with the American point-of -view, which is another reason that I think this would be a great companion read for World War II studies.
As far as age-group, I think that it will heavily depend on the child’s attention span and interest individually, but if I had to pick an age-group, I’d say between 6-10. With the 6-7 year olds being pretty advanced readers for their age (or understanding if you’re reading aloud), and 8-10 being a target audience. As far as content goes, that’s where Grandpa’s Great Escape lost a star from me. Grandpa makes a few comments that likely would go right over kid’s heads if they were reading by themselves, but as a read aloud, I would’ve definitely felt awkward saying those things to a child audience. The most shocking being, “I know my way around pair of women’s knackers”, in context, it IS funny and I got the “adult joke”, but, this is intended for quite a young age and I didn’t care for those few sprinkled jokes throughout the book. However, if you read the book (or chapter) prior to reading aloud, these comments can be easily skipped over without taking away from the whole of the book.
Trigger warnings to keep in mind: Grandpa openly deals with dementia and this is very difficult for Jack to process, who loves his grandpa dearly. This book also villain-izes nursing homes, so that might be something to keep in mind if any children readers are struggling with the prospect of watching their grandparents go to a nursing home.
Also, there’s a BBC movie that is free to watch on Youtube. I have not watched it, but from reviews I’ve read, it is very close to the book!