Inside Grandad

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Inside Grandad Book Poster Image
Magical story about a boy and his grandfather.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the illness of loved ones, particularly the old, is a theme that will need lots of discussion. Children may also need help with the British slang, and with the open-ended conclusion.

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What's the story?

"Grandad was the most important person in Gavin's life." He has always been there, taking care of Gavin while his parents and grandmother work, going fishing with him, making gorgeous models of ships, talking of selkies, understanding him in a way no one else does. When Grandad has a stroke, Gavin is the only one with him, the one who calls the ambulance, holds Grandad's hand until they arrive, and rides with him to the hospital. And, Gavin is sure, he's the only one who can bring Grandad back from his coma.

But as the weeks go by, despite visiting Grandad every day, working with the physiotherapist, spending hours talking to him and reading to him, nothing seems to be changing except Gavin, who's growing increasingly exhausted, hopeless and desperate, and increasingly certain that the key to unlocking the prison of Grandad's mind has something to do with the selkies he loved to talk about.

Is it any good?

There is magic in the world, and Peter Dickinson knows it beyond the shadow of a doubt. It lurks in the hidden spaces of the ordinary, in the mysterious connections between one person and another, subtle, shy, brought forth by the power of emotion, gone so quickly it can always be rationalized away.

Dickinson brings the magic into high relief by keeping the story so relentlessly real. Every character is complex, imperfect, and utterly believable. The course of the stroke, the ambulance, the hospital, nurses, physiotherapists, the effects on the family -- all are firmly grounded in reality, as is the ending, in which there are no satisfying but unbelievable miracles, only the tiniest hints of genuine hope. In this slim book, lightly touched by magic and likely to bring tears on more than one occasion, it is Gavin's unshakable devotion to his Grandad that is the most realistic, and magical, of all.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about caring for loved ones when they're seriously ill. Talk about the different emotions that those close to Grandad are grappling with throughout the book. Families can also discuss the importance of taking care of yourself when you're caring so attentively to a loved one in need.

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