The Grunts All At Sea by Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler

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The Grunts All At Sea by Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: The most revoltingly rotten family to grace children's literature since Roald Dahl's The Twits.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Nosy Crow
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857630711

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Shortlisted for Roald Dahl Funny Prize Shortlist 2013: The Funniest Book for Children Aged Seven to Fourteen

Mr and Mrs Grunt are a rather despicable couple. They are dirty and violent and always throwing things at each other. They eat things like dead badger scraped off the roadside, and like using very rude words. But as disgusting and depraved as they are, they are not evil. They are more like overgrown, badly behaved toddlers who haven't seen a bath in years. They fight and throw things, but honestly seem to care about each other as well on some level. They live with their adopted, or more accurately kidnapped son, who doesn't seem to notice that wearing dresses is unusual for a boy, and Mrs Grump has taken the trouble to dye them blue. Rather than a house they live in a caravan that looks like a cross between a camping caravan and an outhouse, and is pulled by a large elephant, with two donkeys riding in their own trailer behind.

Mr Grunt has a grand scheme to make plenty of money. All he has to do is deliver a person of great importance, henceforth known as Pogi to a secret location. Pogi never speaks, beyond saying Pogi and his face is never seen. He wears a barrel as clothing with his arms and legs sticking out. Sunny's friend Mimi, a small girl who apparently was the servant of a bad character in the first book joins them on this adventure, which will involve a long journey by elephant-drawn caravan, and later by sea. But someone wants to stop the Pogi from arriving safely. Just because someone appears respectable doesn't mean they are, and this madcap family will end up being the good guys in this very silly adventure.

Although this is part two in a series, this book is quite possible to read as a stand alone story. We had not read the previous book, but never felt at a loss. Anything essential to the plot from the first book is repeated, and let's face it this is not a complex plot. This is more of a silly madcap adventure with plenty of bad behaviour and steaming piles of elephant poo. Although the illustrations are black and white, they are very well drawn and a cut above the average for this type of book. Of course seeing that the illustrator is Axel Scheffler, I really wouldn't have expected anything less. Another huge positive for this book is the depiction of a wheelchair-bound character which, as a disabled person myself, I found very well done. It is never patronising or overly politically correct. She is just depicted as a very normal and active person, who happens to be in a wheelchair. The book has a lovely hardback cover, thick non-see-through pages, a good sized font and a decent amount of spacing between the lines, all factors that make reading easier.

This story is told in a form of second person narrative, as a conversation between the unknown narrator, and the reader. This has a very chatty feel to it, but it times it becomes a bit to chatty. The narrative stretched on too far in many cases, and I ended up skimming, or omitting good chunks of the conversation to keep the children interested. There was plenty of humour, and there were aspects of this the children enjoyed, but it was a bit too silly at times for my boys, and after the novelty of a boy in a dress and a lot of bickering wore off, they did begin to lose interest in the story. That isn't to say this is a bad book. It is just a matter of taste. My own sons may not have completely taken to this book, but I do know many children who love this type of silliness. We did finish the book, and we did have some laughs, but it isn't a book we will read a second time. Still, my youngest son very much enjoyed guessing at who the bad guys were. My oldest figured it out right away. I do not want to rate the book to harshly though, as I do feel there is a wide audience for this book. If you enjoyed Roald Dahl's The Twits, I would certainly give this one a try.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy:

The Wrong End of the Dog (Grubtown Tales) by Philip Ardagh

Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

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Buy The Grunts All At Sea by Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Grunts All At Sea by Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler at


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