Grandpa’s Big Adventure by Paul Newman
Published by Penguin Australia
Those of us who’ve been lucky enough as children to have had grandfathers who told rollicking ‘true’ stories to us will recall the conflicted sensation of never quite knowing whether to believe the narratives, yet loving them anyway.
On the other hand, sometimes the tale Grandpa told was in truth very different than our imaginations had interpreted and it was these childish imaginings that had turned the story into a fanciful and unlikely fable.
GRANDPA’S BIG ADVENTURE is told from the perspective of a small boy who is frightened of water, but who is being taught how to swim by his grandfather. Grandpa explains to the nervous boy that not only will knowing how to swim possibly save his life one day, but that if he doesn’t learn the skill he’ll never have swimming adventures like the BIG ones Grandpa has experienced.
And so begins Grandpa’s adventure stories about the time he ‘swam around the world’.
Here, Tom Jellett’s illustrations turn the narrative into a delight, reflecting Grandpa’s jokey stories, which the boy simply accepts. The pictures amusingly depict the little boy’s imaginative interpretations of Grandpa’s often ambiguous words.
Grandpa tells the probably unlikely story of having tea with the Prince of Wales on his travels, words the boy immediately interprets as the ‘Prince of Whales’. He imagines his grandpa holding a thermos and diving deep down in the sea to meet a huge whale. When Grandpa says he has had to ‘deal with sharks’ the boy has a vision of his grandfather in the water dealing cards in a card game where sharks are the other players.
The vivid stories and imaginings continue, with Grandpa relaxing his nervous grandson with laughter while the swimming lessons continue.
The warm bond of trust between grandfather and grandson comes across on every page of this charming picture book, yet the quirky tale is a modern and tongue-in-cheek twist on that bond, with not a hint of sentimentality. Highly recommended.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Paul Newman
Illustrator: Tom Jellett
Title: Grandpa’s Big Adventure
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Published: August 2016