cover image Grandpa’s Great Escape

Grandpa’s Great Escape

David Walliams, illus. by Tony Ross. Harper, $16.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-256089-6

It’s 1983, but Jack’s grandfather, whose memory is failing, believes that the year is 1940, when he was a decorated RAF pilot serving in WWII. Unlike his worried parents, 12-year-old Jack views the workings of Grandpa’s mind as “nothing short of magical,” is spellbound by the man’s wartime tales, and eagerly plays “Squadron Leader” to Grandpa’s “Wing Commander” as they outwit enemy aircraft from their armchair cockpits. Knowing that “You had to enter Grandpa’s world to get through to him,” Jack uses military lingo to talk his grandfather down from a church spire, remove him from a museum’s fighter plane, and help him escape the nightmarish Twilight Towers home for the elderly (motto: “Caring for your unwanted old folk”). Ross’s energetic drawings and some playful use of typography bring additional drama and humor to the story. As in Walliams’s Demon Dentist, the adult characters are of the bumbling sort—such as Miss Swine, the diabolical matron of Twilight Towers, and a pair of detectives, Beef and Bone—and the story’s comedy is nicely counterbalanced by the poignant bond between Jack and Grandpa. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)