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April 18, 2009

For the fun to start the adults must be disposed of

My Situation
by Grimble

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When parents go to Peru
And leave cups of tea in the fridge,
It's jolly hard to know what to do
And I wish I could think of a useful
word ending in idge. The End

With the passing of Clement Freud (1924 - 2009) I have been remembering Grimble. I used to really enjoy this story of a boy whose parents suddenly disappear to Peru, leaving him to his own hilarious devices.

The departure of Grimble's parents is a stark solution to the classic children's author dilemma: How to Get Rid of the Adults?

Solution 1. Your hero is an orphan (Oliver Twist, Harry Potter, Violet Baudelaire, Anne of Green Gables, James Trotter and many others).

Solution 2. Parents gone to Peru (Grimble) or so absorbed in their own lives that they might as well have gone to Peru

Solution 3. Parents alive but stay-at-homes (Just William, Famous Five).

In my last book, HACKING TIMBUKTU, I made use of the old 'Gone to Peru' trick, or in Danny's case 'Gone to Australia':

'Where are your parents?'
'My dad and my step-mum live in Australia.'
'Australia?' The policeman frowned. 'Why don't you live with them?'
Danny swallowed hard. 'I just don't.'
'You mean they upped and went?' said the policeman. 'Left you here all on your own to fend for yourself?'
'They pay the rent on this place,' muttered Danny. Don't feel sorry for me, he thought. You don't know anything about me. I live here and they live there, that's all there is to it. I'm sixteen. I can look after myself.

No more reason is given for Danny's parents leaving than for Grimble's. We don't need it, we just need them out of the way.

I was interested to read Mal Peet's review of GONE by Michael Grant today. It begins:

"It's axiomatic that for the fun to start the adults must be disposed of. Michael Grant does this in the most perfunctory and audacious way. From a chunk of southern California, everyone over the age of 15 vanishes in an instant, just like that - poof! Teachers in mid-sentence, drivers from cars, parents at home, all gone."

So there you go - all adults disposed of in the very first paragraph - the most simple and delightful solution yet. Why hasn't anyone else thought of that before?

Posted by sahelsteve at April 18, 2009 12:21 PM