The Queen of feel-good reads, Jenny Pearson is back ready to wrap you up in her signature style of humour and heart. This is the ultimate comfort read; a book that feels like the biggest and loveliest of hugs. The story sensitely handles loneliness, old-age and dementia on an epic adventure shared between one boy and his Grandpa.
Expect non-stop hilarity and comedy capers of collosal proportions – we’re talking hot air balloon ride disasters, dog chases, dolphin swimming and dips in duckponds, yet tender moments so touching you’ll be reaching for the tissues. Buckle your seat belt for the ultimate bucket list and one boy’s discovery that happiness is, in fact, priceless.
Life isn’t great for for 11 year old Frank John Davenport. Constantly moved around by his Ricky and Bianca-esque parents, he hasn’t bonded with any of his class-mates at his most recent school and is facing a summer of loneliness and watching his parents argue over his dad’s failed ‘get rich quick’ schemes.
Wideboy Frank Davenport Senior is always chasing some ridiculous money-making project and the family spend their time evading his debtors and disgruntled customers from his dodgy deals, hence the endless moving around.
So when Frank Junior inherits stacks of cash (£462,000 to be exact) from a step-grandma (Nora) he didn’t know he had, life is looking up, big time! But the money comes with STRICT instructions; it is to be used primarily towards the continuing care and well-being of Frank Senior Senior who resides at Autumnal Leaves Residential Home.
Step-grandma Nora writes from beyond the grave;
‘with Frank Senior on his own and not always in full possession of all his faculties, I leave you this money to look after him. He doesn’t think he needs anybody. But like most things, he’s wrong about that. Please show him the care he needs and, if you do, I promise there will be a reward for you too.’
Frank’s parents are desperate to get their hands on the money and a deep-seated family rift is uncovered. Dad makes his feelings about Frank Senior Senior abundantly clear and forbids his son from seeing his Grandpa. But with the promise of an additional mysterious reward, Frank can’t help himself. With dad busy ‘seeing a man about a dog’ and mum perfecting her back-hand with tennis coach, supertanned Tony, he pays Grandpa Frank a visit at Autumnal Leaves – after all, he’s not the sort of kid to ignore the instructions of a dead step-grandma.
Frank tells his Grandpa about the money and convinces him he needs in on the action. He quickly compiles a Bucket List of all the ways he can spend the money and have fun whilst looking after his grandpa. Hot-air balloon rides, monster-truck lessons and epic parkour experiences to name a few. Look forward to meeting a cast of comedic characters along the way like Balloon Dave, Brenda, an unlikely elderly wheelchair stunt woman and Florence Kay, coach to an OAP’s synchronised swimming team – expect sequin-clad octagenarians!
From the outset, it’s pretty clear to the reader what Grandma Nora had in mind for her mystery reward but it’s made even more lovely going along for the ride with Frank as he chases the dream and seeing his realisation that money can’t buy you happiness and that caring for others is in itself an extremely rewarding experience.
Seeing Frank find creative ways to bridge the generation gap and watching his relationship blossom with his Grandpa was very touching. The way Pearson portrays the onset of dementia is extremely moving and very sensitely handled for the Middle Grade audience. I think adults readers are most likely to be those to shed a tear due to the age of our parents and possible experience of the heartbreak of seeing a loved one coping with the illness.
They say that laughter is the best medicine and Grandpa Fran’s Great Big Bucket List cheered me up no-end on a miserable Autumn afternoon. Jenny Pearson has such a talent for reminding us to live our best lives and appreciate simple, ordinary everyday magic.
Grandpa Frank’s Great Big Bucket List will be published by Usborne on 3rd February 2022. With thanks to Usborne and NetGalley for approving me to read an advance copy of the book.
Click on the cover below to read my review of The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates – also hilarious and highly recommended!