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Jenny Pearson on Great Grannies

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We are always looking for books that have positive and interesting portrayals of grandparents and great grandparents, so we are thrilled to have this blog from Jenny Pearson, author of The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates, illustrated by Rob Biddulph.

Jenny Pearson, a primary school teacher based in the North East, is every bit as funny in real life as she is on the page.
She loves her job, and Freddie Yates and his friends are a wonderful mix of all the children she’s ever taught. She says
witnessing a close friendship among a group of kids is about the best thing ever; they make each other laugh, they
muck around but, when the chips are down, they’ll do anything for each other.

I am very fortunate to have two spectacularly wonderful grandmothers. Although in my family we call them Nanny – I don’t know why. My Nanny Browne who is sadly no longer with us used to knit me and my sister terrible jumpers which we would pretend were too small or too scratchy to wear. She also used to take us to the amusement arcade to play the 2p slots and give us seed to feed the pigeons. I won’t ever forget the look of pure horror on my germ-phobic mother’s face when she saw a photo of a flock of pigeons and then spotted my sister and I were the surface that they were perching on. 

My other nanny, who has the nickname Bees-wings for very good reason – she never stops still for a second – was ninety this year but has the energy of someone much younger. She seems to be constantly concerned that I may drop dead from starvation at any point and can often be found squirrelling bananas into my bag. One cough and she’ll have forced an Olbas Oil pastel into my mouth before I have a chance to clamp my lips shut. If you have never tried one, don’t. Imagine the most disgusting taste on the planet – they’re worse than that.

My grandparents have all played a very important part in my life and I think the fact that I seem to include grandparents in my books is testament to that.

Freddie’s grams is a real mix of both my grandmothers – she knits and she’s a feeder and she loves Freddie fiercely but would never let him get away with poor manners. She is incredibly proud of him and perhaps she could be considered a little over-protective. She is definitely a little eccentric and is a terrible driver having crashed into the war memorial. Her letter to Freddie, Her Little Soldier, is what sets him and his friends Ben and Charlie off on their super miraculous journey.

I love to see a Granny in a story and if I’m going to talk about the best grandmother’s to be found in children’s books, it would be impossible not to start with David Walliams’s Gangsta Granny!

I love the idea that a Granny can be a jewel thief. It really goes against what we expect from a grandmother and that is what is so great about this book. It teaches us that we really shouldn’t underestimate the older generation – they really are very marvellous!

Roald Dahl, to me the king of kid’s books, wrote a fantastic grandmother in his book The Witches. She’s Norwegian, has a certain fierceness about her, and she smokes (Freddie Yates would not approve). But she is also full of wisdom and is both courageous and clever. I think the love and respect between her and her grandson leaps off the pages and I love this story although the ending is just so sad!

Granny by Anthony Horrowitz depicts a grandmother who is absolutely the opposite to what we expect a warm and loving grandmother to be. And she is ‘great’ in that she is a fantastically frightful character who has the ability to make you physically shudder. Poor Joe, who is ignored by his parents hopes to find solace at his grandmother’s, but she is cantankerous and demanding – expecting that she should get her own way all the time because of her advancing years. She is also terribly mean and venomous, albeit witty too. I heard that Horrowitz based Granny on his own grandmother – goodness! I will never complain about a terrible knitted jumper again.