There are an abundance of illustrated funny chapter books for children aged 7+ but sometimes one comes along that elevates itself above the crowd and waves its fox tail. In what will be a series, Nadia Shireen’s debut middle-grade read is the perfect dose of funny.
Fox cubs Ted and Nancy live in a bush in the park in the Big City, scavenging for food from the greasy bins of Speedy Chicken. Life is greasy and grimy but more than satisfactory and things would have been OK if Ted hadn’t accidentally mistaken the meanest cat’s tail for a hotdog and bitten it off.
Now Princess Buttons is mad and the siblings need somewhere to lie low. When helpful rat Sven suggests Grimwood, Ted thinks all of his dreams have come true. There’ll be leaves and grass and mud to roam in and a forest full of animals to play with.
Expecting refugee in the peaceful countryside, they are met with a thieving eagle, an aggressive rabbit, leotard-wearing squirrels and rowdy badgers. Grimwood is most definitely weird. When Princess Buttons gets wind of their location she comes seeking revenge and Ted and Nancy will need help from the animals of Grimwood if they are to outwit the evil cat and her gang…
Grimwood is my kind of story and I absolutely LOVE it! Written with gusto and bursting with appropriately funny illustrations, Nadia Shireen has created a book that is brilliantly bonkers, wildly wacky and full of heart. There is nothing grim about this wood. The madcap animal caper fizzes with fun as the animals of Grimwood put the wild in wildlife. It is the kind of place that I would love to live - morning smoothies delivered by owl, a regal stag overseeing the disorder and home to everyone’s new favourite sport…Treebonk.
With its memorable cast of characters, including a woodlouse who pops up with a witty and sarcastic comment every now again, the book never stops giving and just when you think things cannot get any funnier, Shireen delivers another belly-aching, rib-tickling scene. By the last page, faces will be aching, heads will be laughed off and readers will be begging for more.
Scratch a little bit deeper and sniff more closely into the fox belly of this story and you find scenes of laughter and fun are punctuated with messages about what it means to have family, to have friends, to be welcomed into a new home and to find a place to belong. We never find out what happened to Ted and Nancy’s parents but we do know that there is an unbreakable bond between the two siblings. Nancy is very protective of her younger brother Ted who just wants to make friends and enjoy life. With Ted writing messages to his parents and Nancy discovering fox paw prints in stone, my fox senses tell me there is more to come with the family storyline.
Lots of books try to be funny, some may invoke a smile, sometimes the odd laugh but I cannot think of many that will bring as many giggles and laughter-tears as Grimwood, it is pure enjoyment and riotously good fun.
With huge thanks to Simon & Schuster for this hilarious story.
Recommended for 7+.