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A Walliams story that is undermined by the loose construction of the storyline
on 22 August 2015
When I started to read and critique the David Walliams stories, I thought that Mr Stink and Gangsta Granny were good places to start. I was first drawn in by their Roald Dahl connections because the titles reminded me of The Twits and George's Marvellous Medicine.
At first glance you may think that Wlalaims might be riffing on George's Marvellous Medicine. However he changes gear and nods to The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox and Danny the Champion of the World.
I don't intend to give the plot away so I will keep it brief. This story is about a boy named Ben who sees that his grandmother is more than her cabbage-based diet and Scrabble games. When she tells him that she was once a jewel thief, the scales fall from his eyes and the plot gathers pace. Both boy and grandmother plan a jewel heist to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
This makes for a wonderful, madcap and exciting story. However, after reading the book, I noted that I was none too happy with the way the story was presented. For one thing, I felt that the the first half of the book devoted too much time to the parents' obsession with the Strictly Stars Dancing TV show. As such the pace moved too slowly, with too much flab and filler I also felt unhappy that the grandmother's cancer diagnosis and Christmas-period death at the end made the book end abruptly. (Curiously enough, here in Singapore, I was reminded of the death of my grandparents when reading these pages, but thankfully not from cancer.) As such the seams in the plot seemed to want to split. Personally, I would have liked Walliams to focus his story on the jewel heist rather than on the peripheral episodes. Comparing this to the poaching expedition in Danny the Champion of the World, that story is tighter and more focus, whereas Gangster Granny is a bit looser.
I'm not out to impinge on the enjoyment of children. I assure you that I am open-minded towards these books, imagining myself as a child reading them for the first time. I pay close attention to the structure of the storyline. Despite Walliams' wonderful writing, the storyline lets the book down, at least in this case. However the love between the boy and his grandmother is potent and clear.