WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
The War with Grandpa by Robert Kimmel Smith
Basic Idea: Peter Stokes is forced to sacrifice his bedroom to his grandpa and live in a musty, old guest room. On the advice of his friends, Peter decides that declaring a prank war is the best way to get through to the old man downstairs. Things don’t always end up as planned though, sometimes, they end up even better… especially when your Grandpa doesn’t take pranks quietly.
Plot: 3½/5 Above Average: The book has Peter pranking his grandpa and his grandpa retaliating more and more until things get way out of hand. It was nice to read a book that wasn’t about romance, but about a family’s growing relationship and dealing with a realistic problem. It was a bit cliché, but it was interesting enough. The main thing that hurt from the story was probably that the characters weren’t really likeable. Grandpa was a bit random, Peter and his sister were spoiled, and Peter’s friends were somehow worse. Though there were very slight improvements at the end of the book, I still didn’t really like the characters, though the plot by then had grown on me.
Writing Style and Setup: 4/5 Well Done: The writing style had the skills of an adult with the simplicity of a child, a perfect combination for the first view story Peter tells. While Peter’s views were a bit inconsistent at times, such as saying he wanted to write short sentences early in the story but progressively writing quite large ones, Mr. Smith did a good job at describing the circumstances and surroundings of his characters.
The pace of the story was also good, as the pranks started out small, tension built between the two main characters in a number of activities and discussions, and the climax of the story had a bittersweet taste.
Moral: 2/5 Good and Bad Morals: The moral had a blend of really great morals and really terrible ones. Peter is more than a little spoiled, and on the advice of his friend’s tries to sabotage his grandpa’s staying there. By the end of the book, Peter has learned a few things. First, don’t always listen to your friends, and second, calmly working things out is better than aggressive means. While both of these are true and clearly explained at the end, I still kind of feel like a child reading this will get that Peter basically got his way by being bratty with his family and pulling pranks. Even though he directly didn’t it through bad behavior, he indirectly got it through bad behavior, and children reading it may pick that up.
Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: The writing style of Mr. Smith is definitely commendable, and no doubt his story is a sweet memory in the minds of many. I did not care for his characters though or the slightly sloppy moral. If someone wanted to read it, I would say it’s a fairly decent read for a child, but nothing outstanding.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: ½/5 Brief Mention: Some boys tell their friend he should burn a man’s underwear. “Naked” is used for descriptive purposes.
Violence: 1/5 Brief Violence: A man slaps his grandson. A boy punches his fist into his hands and talks about punching someone.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 1½/5 One Misuse and Brief Mention: God’s name is taken in vain once as well as the phrase, “So help me, God.” A man says “War is hell.” A chapter says that some boys said some bad words and that they must be replaced with things like rorvish and macinshtop. Later, a boy uses one of the words mentioned there, again replaced.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Brief Mention: It is mentioned that a woman died from emphysema. A man has a bad limp. A boy mentions how he will have to make rules to keep his child from things that could hurt him such as poison and electrocution. A boy cries hard because his room will be taken away and later forces himself not to, and a woman cries over her father’s unhealthy mental state. A boy wonders if his grandpa will die of depression. The Revolutionary War, “gorilla” and guerilla warfare, Pearl Harbor. bombs, Zorro, and dueling are mentioned. The story of Damacles, a sword hanging over a man, is briefly told. A man says war “kills.” A boy briefly thinks about how monsters and the boogeyman aren’t real, and worries a murderer will get him in his sleep. “Deadly” is used in a chapter title.
Religious Issues: ½/5 Brief Mention: “Devilish” and “thief in the night” is used for descriptive purposes.
Magic: ½/5 Brief Mention: A girl asks her brother if his story will have a fairy; it doesn’t.
Others: There is brief mention of watching Wonder Woman on TV. A girl wears clothes with Pac-Man and Superman on them. Batman and Robin are mentioned. Characters play with cards. Frankenstein is briefly mentioned. A girl dances ballet, and mentions doing so in speech. It mentions “smoking cigarettes” can cause emphysema. A man buys cigars. Forms of the word “dance” are used for descriptive purposes. Jaws is mentioned. “Darth Vader” is used for descriptive purposes.
Overall: 1/5 All Ages Appropriate: It’s a mostly clean read, though some may feel squeamish about a few things. I would recommend it morally for children seven to eight and older.