The Polyester Grandpa

Martha Freeman, Author Holiday House $15.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8234-1398-0
The exaggerated, sitcom-like tone of this slight novel is set in the opening scene, when Molly's perfectionistic, former-professor mother, Lila, faints over the news that her widowed mother has remarried. Relying heavily on cliches and exclamation marks (""Holy moly! Mom was flat on the kitchen floor""), 10-year-old Molly goes on to chronicle how everything goes ""kerflooey"" after her grandmother comes to visit with her new husband, the fat, bald Jimmy Barkenfalt, seller of polyester clothing, owner of garish Hawaiian shirts, lover of Big Macs. Molly's father and her little brother, aka ""the nuisance,"" like Jimmy well enough, but Molly shares her mother's opinion that he is a ""vulgarian."" She also suspects he is a drug lord, after overhearing a telephone call he makes to South America. To drive him away, Molly carries out a hare-brained scheme to aggravate his cat allergy. The plan leads to disaster, of course, and Molly is gratifyingly humbled. Freeman (Stink Bomb Mom) takes a risk in casting the not altogether sympathetic Molly as narrator (readers may agree when Molly's grandmother exclaims, ""Well, if Lila hasn't raised a little snob!"") and in showing Molly's adherence to her less-than-likable parents' values (""Ya got a mama acts like the Queen o'Sheba [and] a dad too scared o'her t'say boo,"" Grandpa Jimmy accurately observes); kids may sign off before the protagonist (and her mom) experience a change of heart. Ages 8-12. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
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