Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The War With Grandpa- Movie Tie In Edition

Smith, Robert Kimmel. The War With Grandpa
Yearling; Media Tie In Edition (September 29, 2020)
First published March 1st 1984 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Peter has a comfortable, middle class life with his parents and sister. When his grandmother in Florida dies, his grandfather decides to move in with the family. Since he has arthritis in his leg, due in part to a construction injury from his working life, the parents decide to give the grandfather Peter's room on the second floor and move Peter to the attic. Not happy with this, Peter writes a story for his teacher about what occurs. With the urging of his friends, Peter decides to "wage war" on his grandfather. He is ten, so this means just being generally belligerent and planning small inconveniences, like setting his grandfather's alarm for the middle of the night, stealing his slippers and watch, and generally being recalcitrant and short with his grandfather. Except when he is not. He genuinely loves his grandfather, seems to understand how sad the man is that the grandmother has died, sees how difficult it is for him to move around, and likes spending time with his fishing and talking. Still, Peter is so obsessed with having his own room exactly the way he likes it that he keeps on with this annoying fight. The grandfather, instead of rightly slapping him, claims that his life in Florida was dull and boring, and that Peter's attempts at a fight amuse him. Grandpa gives better than he gets; there is one scene where the grandfather has painstakingly hidden everything that Peter needs to get ready for the day and sent him on an elaborate hunt around the house for everything down to his shoelaces, making him late for school. In the end, the two work out a plan involving the grandfather, who had worked in construction, renovating the dank family basement that held the father's home office (complete with typewriter and landline!), sending the father to the attic, and returning Peter to his beloved room, proving that acting like a brat will, in fact, get you what you want. 

Strengths: The Richard Lauter illustrations are retained, and I sort of want to frame the one of the family at the beginning of the book, if only for the fashions! Grandpa frequently wears a suit, and Peter has flannel shirts tucked into jeans. Robert Kimmel Smith, who passed away at the age of 89 in April of 2020, was a charming writer. This book was quick and pleasant to read, and easy to remember, harkening back to my own middle school reading of Smith's contemporaries Ellen Conford, Paula Danziger, and Betty Miles. Children will find Peter's actions amusing, and perhaps long to have their own grandfather closer at hand. It is easy to understand why this won awards back in the day and is a frequent favorite for class study. The release of the movie makes it perfect for compare and contrast essays. 
Weaknesses: Even though I enjoyed the style of this book, and like Kimmel Smith's work in general, I didn't realize how angry Peter's attitude made me until I wrote this review. This, dear readers, is exactly what the 1980s were like. All characters were white and middle class, problems were small and child-centered, and meanness was funny. 
What I really think: This is a better purchase for elementary schools than middle schools. If I had a copy in the library, I would keep it for its historical value, but I won't buy a copy of such an old title when there are new books more attuned to current student experiences. I sort of want to see the movie, just to see how it is adapted, and if more modern attitudes are taken. 

Ms. Yingling

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