If the Coen Brothers did children’s books, I reckon you’d end up with something like Philip Ardagh’s The Grunts All At Sea.
Delivered in a fresh, witty voice, this madcap adventure story is populated with a cast of eccentrics so perfectly crafted that each and every one is brimming with life.
The Grunts are an odd couple who live in a caravan with their sort-of son Sunny. They enjoy exchanging creative insults, which flimsily conceal a deep-held affection for one another. At first glance the Grunts resemble Roald Dahl’s Twits but as you delve into the story you realise that Ardagh’s creations are utterly original and that this book has very little in common with Dahl’s iconic tale.
Mr Grunt has been sent on a mission to deliver a P.O.G.I (Person of Great Importance), who turns out to be a little man wearing a barrel, to an island destination. This marks the beginning of a crazy journey that introduces the Grunts, Sunny and his friend Mimi to some very unusual individuals who have a habit of reappearing.
I loved so much about the way it was written. It had a superb breezy style and the dialogue between characters was energetic, fresh, distinctive and so much fun to read out loud. It was funny too: genuinely funny with several chuckle-out-loud moments. The humour worked for both a thirty-something and an almost seven-year-old.
Unfortunately the actual story didn’t grip us 100% and we almost gave up on it. It’s a long book, and we read it during a busy time so we stopped and started it quite a bit. Because there are quite a lot of characters we did get a bit confused early on and didn’t always quite know what was going on. Toby had to ask me to recap things a few times.
Although it’s a very clever plot and comes together really neatly at the end, it was a bit convoluted at times for Toby but I think it’s one to definitely revisit. It’s got enough depth to it to be worthy of multiple reads.
One thing I’ve at least taken away from this book: a new term of endearment for Toby. “P.O.G.I” is so much fun to yell, particularly first thing in the morning when trying to wake up my little sleepyhead.
Read-aloud-ability: 5/5 – huge fun to read aloud for a drama queen like me
Fun factor: 4/5
Fidget factor: 4/5 – a lot of Match Attax card shuffling and sorting was going on.
Fear factor: 1/5 – Too funny to be scary but there were a few baddies causing trouble.
Page turnability: 2/5
Mum’s final score: 7/10 – I want to love this but we didn’t really connect with the story
Toby’s final score: 5/10 – “Sometimes I didn’t know what was going on.”