Jonathan Bentley, Grump!, Scholastic Australia, October 2020, 24 pp., RRP $17.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760974411
Donald the Grump is mean, bossy, and full of self-importance. A cat lives on his head until he becomes fed up with Donald’s tantrums and leaves. Will Donald be able to learn self-control?
On the surface, this is a cautionary tale. We’ve seen stories about bossy selfish toys getting their comeuppance before. The simple rhyming language is great to read aloud and the masterful illustrations convey emotions well. But the point of difference with this text is its subversive tongue in cheek satire. Does Donald the Grump remind you of another tyrant with orange hue and wispy blonde hair? Even the cover sheds a clue with its embossed stars. Unlike the real Donald, this story’s protagonist finds a way to temper his temper in the form of the cat he wears on his head who becomes his conscience.
Younger children will enjoy the rhythm and bold illustrations, older children will cackle with delight when they get the highly topical reference. I was a little disappointed with the first part of the book, which could be an appropriation of another author’s work, featuring a popular pug. I see the visual reason for the cat on the head, which leads on to the cautionary part of the story, but it is quite ridiculous. Though I must admit I do like the pages showing his other possible hairpieces the most.
I would use this book to discuss satire, parody, and appropriation with upper primary students. But the message in the book will not lost on younger students.
Reviewed by Sharon Seymour