Sunday 28 July 2019

Grandpa’s Noises

Grandpa’s Noises by Gareth St John and Colin Rowe EK Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781925335989 Hardback 32 pp RRP: 24.99

Reviewed by Julie Thorndyke

Grandpa’s Noises is an attractively illustrated picture book exploring the relationship between a grandchild and their elderly grandfather.

Narrated by the unnamed child, we see the Grandpa from their point of view. This literary device allows us to explore the strangeness young children may attribute to older people. It is as if the grandparent is an alien being, with different habits, strange physical characteristics and bizarre noises. The child explains to the reader (as perhaps his parents have already explained to him/her) what the noises signify.

Grandpa’s slow putting on of his coat, the creaking of his knees, the adjustment of his glasses, the finding of his walking stick, the tuning of his hearing aid, the slurping of his tea, the farting, the snoring, the slurred together phrases . . . all paint a realistic picture of the strangeness of old age.

The sunny colour palette and the clear, enjoyable illustrations offer detailed scenes of domestic life. I particularly enjoyed the reactions of the ginger cat—and look for the tumbled sheep and shepherd in the wall-painting that mirrors the dishevelment of the characters after their walk outside.

As someone coming from a family whose grandfather used to entertain us by wiggling his ears at the tea table, and whose brother is an off-the-scale scary-loud sneezer, this book struck a chord.

In contemporary society, there are grandparents who are young and active; grandparents who are older and less mobile; grandparents who are somewhere in between and great-grandparents who are a further step down the track of the ageing process. Although we must be wary of stereotyping older people, this enjoyable book treads a sensitive path through the potential problems of an important family relationship. In the closing scene, the ginger cat, Grandpa and the sheep are happy and relaxed. We have the sense that the child-narrator, also, is serene and secure within their extended family.

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