Kita Mitchell (text), Nathan Reed (illus.), Grandma Dangerous and the Dog of Destiny (Grandma Dangerous #1), Hachette Australia, 26 June 2018, 272pp., $14.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781408355060
The main character in this book is neither Grandma or the Dog of Destiny. The protagonist and hero is Ollie, a smart, overprotected, maybe-might-wanna-be explorer from England. Through bizarre circumstances, Ollie travels across the globe on a rescue mission to Australia. Joining Ollie is his Grandmother, his pet hamster, Rose (the Dog of Destiny) and his schoolmate, Piper.
Ollie’s Grandma is the title character and she really is a risky, outrageous, dangerous individual (her most recent escapade saw her lose a leg). She has little sincere regard for the strict, safe, industrious family lifestyle Ollie’s mum has worked diligently to achieve. Grandma has a very loose relationship with the truth, she sees no problem with taking young children to the casino, and she falls for the baddie. Her moral compass is seriously in question, but deep down she loves her family…and her dog.
If you read this book with your ‘parent’ hat on, you might be a little hesitant to let your child read it. Most of the adults in the book behave badly, they lie and deceive all the time. Even Ollie’s straight-laced, ever cautious, study focused mother has her turn at misleading her trusting boy. After you’ve read a few funny chapter books for this age group you begin to realise that a lot of the humour comes from the rude, unlikely way the adult characters behave.
The lovely thing about this book is Ollie. He is the kid you want your kid to be. He is fairly brave in the face of challenges – including the disappearance of his father. He wants to follow the rules and stick to his mum’s guidelines. He is disapproving of his Grandma’s perpetual lying and stealing. And he builds a lovely relationship with Piper. Don’t we all want our kids to read about a (fictitious) peer who is faced with morally questionable behaviour but who sticks true?
This book will suit 7-10-year-old independent readers. It will interest those ready for something more involved than Billie B Brown or Zac Power but not quite ready for teenage angst. It is what I like to refer to as a ’safe’ book. While the main character is put in awkward, difficult, even dangerous situations you know that they will always be safe, that eventually, everything is going to work out for them.
Reviewed by Cherie Bell