Granny Samurai, the Monkey King and I by John Chambers. Published by Walker Books, 2013. Paperback 2013. RRP NZ $17.95.
From the publisher:
Granny Samurai is small and dangerous to know. Her teeth are false and so is one of her legs. Her walking stick conceals a double-action repeater, of which there are only two in the world. She has other weapons too, which I am not at liberty to reveal. What I can reveal is contained within the pages of this book. My name is Samuel Johnson. This is our story.
Eccentric young wordsmith Samuel Johnson finds himself home alone while his diplomat uncle is off diverting a crisis in Azerbaijan. As Samuel sits penning his memoirs and wondering how to divert the crisis in his own life – namely the big, hairy brute that is Boris Hissocks – he spots the little old lady next door acting very strangely. Is she actually chopping wood with her bare hands? Then the Monkey King comes knocking, and suddenly Samuel’s whole world is turned on its head…
What do I think of this book!
The story, the humor, the illustrations – what is not to like, in fact LOVE about this book?
This is a book that is difficult to categorise, it’s adventure and fantasy, with shades of Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney), Mr Gum (Andy Stanton) and Ratburger (David Walliams)and episodes of the 1970s show “kung fu” (with Granny taking the place of the Kung fu master) rolled into one. I enjoyed reading this as an adult and could imagine so many of my students getting a giant kick out of this too. Kids 8-9+ will just have to read this and see what they think as I would struggle to talk about the twists and turns in the plot and give it the credit it deserves in a book talk without giving away all “the good bits”. Some kids may struggle with understanding some of the words, but for those kids this would make a great shared read or read aloud – although in my opinion it would be a shame to listen to the very funny and clever text without the opportunity to explore the illustrations, even though the story can stand without them. Granny generally steals the show – she gives Samuel and the readers the sense that he (and they) just needs to listen, do what he is told and go along with things and all will be revealed…which it is, but occasionally Granny needs to explain a bit more and when she does elaborate, it results in some very funny dialogue.
I love the way it’s written (scribed!) by Samuel – it is written as a narrative journal and the chapters are short. Everything about this book gets a big tick from me: the cover – it will stand out on the shelf; the superb illustrations with an oriental flavour on nearly every page (there is a wealth of small details in these that will mean reluctant readers might pause ever-so-slightly, take a break from the text to explore them before leaping back into the text). Because this is so funny and so brilliantly done, I would encourage some of my reluctant readers to try this…some might struggle with some of the words and will need help as for many of these boys the vocabulary won’t pass the ‘five finger rule’, but I would encourage them to try this anyway; lastly I adore the author’s obvious enthusiasm for language, vocabulary and writing. Very, very clever, original and loads of fun!
Author website: grannysamurai.com (it is under development… but go there and see a wonderful illustration from the author)