I ummed and aahed for a long time about which Quentin Blake book to include in the advent calendar. Although he never produced a Christmas story with Roald Dahl (as if), he has brought his own unique take to many other seasonal tales, from A Christmas Carol to Michael Morpurgo’s nativity story, On Angel Wings. But I wasn’t really feeling it. These stories weren’t quite the right match for Blake’s beserk style.
Then I came across Grimble at Christmas, a curious little gem written by Clement Freud in the year of my birth (look it up).
Grimble is a boy with parents so involved in other things that they forgot to give him any other names. For the most part he enjoys the freedom this brings, but at Christmas ‘there were definite disadvantages’. Which means poor Grimble takes it upon himself to organise the family Christmas. But as he only has 19p (plus 5 Irish pence) he embarks on various doomed money making schemes, like a toast delivery service.
We’ve encountered this sort of family disfunction elsewhere this year – in Florence Parry Hyde’s Treehorn, and the Stuart Books by Lissa Evans. Grimble is a definite type, a prematurely responsible child who is able to interact in the adult world, shining a child’s logic on the ludicrousness of grown ups.
The book zings with Clement Freud’s offbeam humour, that I miss from Radio 4’s I’m sorry I haven’t a Clue. He also manages to squeeze in many references to his great passion food and even a nod to his famous Grandfather – in a scene where Grimble finds himself on the couch of his friend David Sebastian Waghorn.
‘You are suffering from Christmeasles and may have to have a Christmasectomy. I suggest you go into the garden and try to score a goal using your right foot. that will be seven pounds and fifty five pence.’
Grimble has some very high profile admirers including J.K Rowling ‘One of the funniest books I have ever read’, and Neil Gaiman, who wrote, ‘Grimble — the tone of voice, the deadpan way he put the sentences together — was a huge influence on Coraline’. Gaiman goes on to reveal that besides the two we have, there are another four unpublished Grimble stories out there. So please, someone send them to Quentin Blake, before next Christmas.