Author: Annaliese Matheron
Year published: 2011
Publisher: Mauve Square Publishing
Number of pages: 74
Recommended age: 6+
Daughter Rating: ★★★★★
Grown-up Rating: ★★★★½
Reviewed by: Renee and Danielle (Mother and Daughter)
Summary (from back cover): “Something was definitely not right; this was bigger than weird old ladies on scooters, piranha dogs, or slipper-throwing ninja nans. Something seriously dodgy was going on and Ben wasn’t about to take it lying down.”
Ben and his older brother, Kieran, have been sent to their grandparents for the summer holidays. Just as Ben finds himself slipping into boredom, adventure finds him in the form of his evil arch enemy, Mrs. Gillespie. A rotten old woman with a big secret to hide. Soon Ben and Kieran are uncovering government secrets, finding underground surveillance centres, and confronting Lycra-clad assailants. When Ben and Kieran find themselves in the clutches of a criminal boss, they find an unlikely band of heroes ready to save them.
What it’s about: This book is about two boys named Ben and Kieran who are visiting their grandparents’ house. Soon they figure out that their grandparents are part of a secret organization.
What I liked and disliked about it: I liked that the story is like a mystery because you don’t know who the bad guy is. I thought Mrs. Gillespie was the evil person but I was surprised by who it was. I will never think of grandparents being boring again because what if my grandparents are Ninja Nans and Sidekick Grandads?
I thought that it was weird that almost all the characters – especially the older ones – were ninjas. I thought the secret spy stuff was cool like the poop shoot which was a secret toilet entrance, the cane with the sleeping gas, and the ninja knitting needles. Also, I really liked that it gets to the good part really quickly.
There was nothing I didn’t like about the book – it was really good and I really enjoyed it.
My bottom line: I loved this book and I would recommend it to both boys and girls who are 5 years and older.
What it’s about: The book introduces us to two brothers, Ben and Kieran, who must spend summer holidays with their grandparents. Through boredom, Ben begins keeping a closer watch on the comings and goings in the neighbourhood, when he discovers that there is something suspicious going on. Ben, together with the help of his older brother, soon discover there is a menace lurking in their grandparents’ neighborhood. Soon, the brothers find themselves in real danger and in need of being rescued by the most unlikely of heroes.
What I liked and disliked about it: This was a clever, exciting, and amusing little book to read to my kids. It was a short and fast read, but there is a mystery and many twists and turns in the plot. The book is written from the perspective of a young boy, Ben and I particularly enjoyed his detailed surveillance notes. It was quite entertaining. Here is an example:
10.34 Have lost the old croon. Last seen heading east off Sycamore Lane, down Petunia Rise.
11.02 Spotted, Mrs Gillespie leaving Mrs Chang’s house, number 5, Honeypot Grove.
11.05 Suspect back indoors.
The thing I liked the most was the positive portrayal of the elderly/older people in the neighborhood as able-bodied, intelligent, and capable. Given the aging demographic in developed countries (i.e., there are more elderly people and this will continue to be the trend), I think it’s important to provide opportunities for older people to be portrayed in a positive light especially when this can be done in children’s literature. Oh, and a bit of the cool factor doesn’t hurt either!
Like my daughter, I really liked the creativity of the author with regards to the fancy ninja tools. My favorite was definitely the poop-shoot although if they ever invent anything like that, I hope they can use a different receptable! It was a very imaginative and original story with lots of colourful characters. It certainly got my attention right away and it was maintained throughout the book.
Just a couple of points worth mentioning. While I did say that I liked the portrayal of the older people in the book, there was a bit of language being used by the boys that was derogatory (e.g., “the old croon”, “old fogies”, “gang of old timers”). On some level, I understand why it is used (i.e., to show the change in attitude toward the older people by the two boys), but I must admit it made me cringe having to read it aloud to my kids.
When the boys are captured by “the bad people”, they are threatened with death. Specifically, the boys are told that they will be killed. That seemed a bit heavy for this book. If the threat had been a bit less extreme, I would be more comfortable recommending it to slightly younger children. That being said, the older people are ninjas! I suppose it all fits in together.
My bottom line: Despite the two issues I raised, my kids and I all really enjoyed this book – it was a great mystery and thriller. I would recommend this book to kids aged 6+.
** Ninja Nan and Sidekick Grandad by Annaliese Matheron was provided to us free-of-charge by the author. **
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