If having a child changes your life, having a grandchild changes your parents. Even the most stern, firm parents suddenly seem to find their softer side and turn into the most terrible spoilers (junk food, toys, you name it…) However, there is no denying the bond is a special one, and I for one and forever grateful that my girls have wonderful grandparents in their lives that they adore. No surprise then that the subject of today’s chapter book is the ultimate grandparent, Bad Nana.
Firstly, Sophy Henn’s debut chapter book, is without doubt the most colourful chapter book I have ever seen. Its luminous pink and green colour way is extended from the front cover, throughout the book and instantly draws you in. As my daughter (age 5) is only just exploring chapter books, the illustrations are very important to helping her engage and she was delighted not only with the pictures in their own right but that she recognised the style of one of her favourite author/illustrators (she is a big fan of Edie, Pass it on and the PomPom stories and Baby Bookhabit loves the Ted boardbooks). Sophy Henn’s signature style is unmistakable and it’s lovely to see it in a new format.
The story itself is told by Jeannie, Bad Nana’s granddaughter, in an almost stream of consciousness style. It’s very informal, almost chatty, which makes it a lot of fun to read. It also has a lot of Jeannie’s observations about the characters which are funny and, as a seasoned teacher, sound very authentic. Some of the subtler parts were sometimes missed by my five year old (as I’m sure will be the case for a while yet with most chapter books) but I know the girls in my Year 3 class last year would have loved it and so although it may not be a particularly challenging read for older children they would still get lots of enjoyment from reading it. (It always makes me a bit sad when children stop reading books solely because they are easy to read regardless of the fact that they would enjoy it, but that’s a post for another day…)
The character of Bad Nana herself is perfect for anyone who likes to get up to a bit of mischief with their grandparents. Bad Nana is funny, glamorous and assertive. She is an unlikely hero, but they are my favourite type. She is excellent at serving a bit of comeuppance to those who need it and takes no nonsense. She carries around a big, shiny black bag which holds everything she needs to sort things out and, like every grandparent I know, is never without a sweet treat (she enjoys sherbet lemons). But most of all what she does is highlight how wonderful it is to have a person who is always on your side, is happy to help you out of sticky situations with a good helping of mischief and can make an ordinary day into something wonderful.
As you can probably tell, we loved the book. The colours, illustrations, characters were all so different to what we have read before but it still feels real and familiar. When I see the knowing look, passing between Bad Nana and Jeannie on the front cover I am instantly reminded of the look I sometimes catch between my mum and daughter. And I think in a world of sometimes dubious role models, Bad Nana could be the perfect reminder that the people we look up to can often be much closer to home.
(Bad Nana and the orginal Bad Grandma!)