I’ve written about this one previously on Shelf Control (find that post here), and now that I read the book, here’s my review.

This was my introduction to Walliams, whose books I’d been noticing for quite a while, and I picked this one since the plot sounded great fun (so do many of the others, actually). This is all about eleven-year-old Ben, whose parents are obsessed with a dancing show “Strictly Stars Dancing”, and who want him to take an interest in it as well. No, not just an interest, but they wish he’d turn a contestant and conquer the dancing world on both sides of the pond.But Ben is really interested only in plumbing, and even goes to great lengths to buy plumbing magazines and hide them where his parents can’t find them, not expecting them to encourage him in this pursuit.

Anyway, when Ben’s parents are watching the show or going to any live event associated with it, Ben is left at his grandma’s (usually every Friday). But he finds poor Granny rather boring because she is your typical old lady with white hair, and false teeth, who unfortunately smells of cabbage (and cooks everything, including cake, with cabbage—there’s even a “recipe”), and only likes to play scrabble with Ben, and read endless gangsta novels. All Ben wants to do when he is at Granny’s is to escape, even trying to agree to watching Strictly Stars Dancing with his parents. But all that changes one day to just the reverse when he discovers that his grandma is an international jewel thief—a gangsta granny!!! Now Ben can’t wait to be at Granny’s to hear all about her adventures when she was young(as he realises to his surprise that all grannies are), and even to try and join her on one, perhaps?

This book was so cute and so much fun. I loved the plot when I read about it and as much when I read it in execution. The story goes along for a bit as you expect it to, but then also takes a few unexpected turns as well. It has adventure, humour, lots of fun illustrations as well (by Tony Ross) which I also really loved. It is lighthearted pretty much all through but takes on a slightly more serious note towards the end which is a little bittersweet.

Ben is pretty likeable, and his parents are a little crazy but fun too. In poking fun at their obsession with the dancing show, Walliams is also I guess poking fun at his own world (I only discovered that he is a judge on Britain’s Got Talent when I wrote a post about this book some time ago).Granny who might look like your typical grandma turns out surprising in her own way, though what she really wants in life is no different from others in her place. I enjoyed her tales about all her jewel heists in various parts of the world. Another thing I liked about the book is that without being preachy, it is able to deliver an important message as well about age and about the relationship between generations—not just grandparents and grandchildren but parents and children as well. I really enjoyed this a lot.

The one complaint I had though was that the humour in some places is somewhat on the crass side which I found off-putting, but not all of it, so it didn’t interfere with my reading too much.

Have you read this one? How did you like it?

8 thoughts on “Children’s Book of the Month: Gangsta Granny by David Walliams

  1. No, I haven’t read any Walliams though I’ve watched one or two tv adaptations which get aired around Christmas. To be honest I find his laboured, sometimes camp, humour increasingly tiresome though I do admire him for the charity work he’s done (such as a 140-mile swim down the Thames). Some have compared his authored work to Roald Dahl’s children’s classics, and that may well be true.

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    1. I can see that kind of humour getting annoying over time or in an overdose. In this one some bits, which could be described I guess as “toilet humour” (using a term I don’t like) was what I was put off by but this wasn’t too prominent in the book. But if it did become so, I would probably not enjoy it as much. The rest was fairly good fun. I’ve read about the Dahl comparison (in fact the back of my book mentions it), though I may not have probably made it. This was fun but in its own way. I haven’t watched him on the show (Britain’s Got Talent) or any of the adaptations, so can’t really say.


      1. He came to prominence in a BBC comedy series Little Britain (first on the radio, then tv) where his and his co-star/co-writer’s humour was occasionally hysterically funny, often puerile and, eventually, over-reliant on tedious stereotypes, catch phrases and sketches that could have made their point in half the time.

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      2. Ah- one of those kind of shows. We have versions here as well (and yes, English and American shows run here too) but those are kinds I certainly stay away from exactly because of the just the reasons/kind of humour you mention. I don’t know why one would need that in books or even on TV (but I assume it appeals to many else these shows wouldn’t work), but based on this book alone, it would have worked as well without that sort of humour since it does have a story to tell and things to say.

        But this sort of humour while it was easy to overlook in this book is making me a little reluctant to dive into others that he’s written though others sound like interesting plots as well.

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      3. No, do try one or two others, they’re genuinely popular with kids and seem worth a go. The two tv shows I watched were ‘Mr Stink’ and ‘The Boy in the Dress’, both of which, whether from the acting or the writing or both, packed an emotional punch.

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      4. I will eventually, but what I meant was if there wasn’t this brand of humour, I wouldn’t have thought twice about ordering the others or at least a couple immediately.


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