Grandparents are often too good to be true in children's books. Twinkly-eyed, apple-cheeked, bun-haired purveyors of baked treats, warm hugs and inappropriate knitwear; they can all seem to merge into one amorphous cipher for Old Person.
'The Frank Show' by David Mackintosh provides a nice antidote to such saccharine blandness. It's 'show and tell' time at school and everyone is required to provide a member of their family to present a talk on. When Mum and Dad are too busy and baby Minnie is too little, Grandad Frank becomes the only candidate in the running. But Frank is tricky; grumpy and apparently dull. He 'doesn't like noise, or today's music, or gadgets and gizmos (or new things), or haircuts, or weather, or doctors or any sort of ice cream that isn't vanilla'. Will his grandson be able to find a minute's worth of material in Frank?
As it turns out (gasp); everyone has a story to tell that's worth hearing if you only take the time to listen; even or perhaps especially, those who've been around the longest. Frank also has (amongst many other accomplishments) a green tattoo, metal in his arm from the war that can tell him when it's going to rain and a real Japanese sword under his bed. A Grandparent who can tell stories becomes a classroom accessory even cooler than a full deck of Modern Marvel Flash Cards.
For me the biggest charm in this altogether charming book are David Mackintosh's witty, busy and slightly subversive illustrations. On one page we are treated to the content's of Frank's childhood memories; a nightmarish mix of tiny clowns, pet crows, suspended crocodiles and gasworks that repays long appreciation. The chaos of both infant school playground and wartime cavalry battle charge are also well observed. Look out for the horse in a gas mask and charging unicorn. And my desire to purchase a jar of pickled onions in the supermarket this week is no co-incidence.
A funny book, a wise book and a beautiful book with just-a-bit-of-a disturbing edge. I'd be happy to show and tell it anywhere.
'The Frank Show' by David Mackintosh, pub. Harper Collins isbn 978-0-00-736400-8
Disclaimer: We received our copy by kindness of the publishers. Our views are our own.