Granny the Pag by Nina Bawden

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Bawden, Nina.  1995.  Granny the Pag.  New York:  Puffin Books.

Nina Bawden’s Granny the Pag is the first person account of the day-to-day life of eleven-year-old Catriona “Cat” Brooke.  Cat’s parents, Lisa and Daddy-O, are actors and for years traveled around performing, leaving Cat to be raised by her grandmother.  Cat’s grandmother is not like the other grandmothers.  She is a retired psychiatrist, rides a Harley, chain-smokes, has long gray hair, and no sense of fashion.  Additionally she is a bad housekeeper, which earns her the nickname “Pag,” which is originally Cat’s misspelling of “pig.”  As Cat matures and comes to appreciate her grandmother, the term Pag gains a positive connotation, meaning one who is strong and intelligent.


When Lisa and Daddy-O get roles on a London-based soap opera and no longer have to travel, Lisa decides that Cat should live with them instead of the Pag.  Cat does not want to leave her friends, her school or, most importantly, the Pag.  She agrees to spend a week at half-term with her parents and during that week begins to feel that she is getting older and older while they are getting younger and younger. 


Cat is disappointed that the Pag doesn’t put up a fight to keep her, but the Pag loves her daughter and refuses to oppose the change in custody.  With help from her best friend, Rosie, Cat decides to consult an attorney, Mr. Twinkle, on her own in an effort to stay with her grandmother.  By taking action and standing up for herself, Cat too becomes a Pag, and her parents finally realize that it is better for her to remain with the Pag and only visit them.


This book is definitely British, including terms like “shocked rigid,” “dead trouble,” and “posh,” as well as references to the various neighborhoods in London.  It is also very informal and conversational in tone and sounds like what an 11-year-old girl, albeit a very intelligent and articulate 11-year-old girl, might write.  Cat is a very likeable heroine and although children might not be able to relate to her battle to stay with the Pag or her TV star parents, they can relate to other situations like her run-ins with school bully, Willy Snotnose (son of a Knight), and the headmaster, Hairy Ears.  Many children can also relate to the fact that Cat can love her grandmother in spite of the fact that she can also be a little bit embarrassed by her eccentricities.  The relationship between Cat and Rosie, including their creation of special nicknames like Willy Snotnose and Hairy Ears and their different strengths and weaknesses, illustrates the kind of friendship that will probably extend into the girls’ adulthood.


I am well past the 9-12 year old target audience of Granny the Pag, but I enjoyed the book and its unsentimental portrait of the close bond between a young girl and her grandmother.  Nina Bawden has said, "I like writing for children. It seems to me that most people underestimate their understanding and the strength of their feelings and in my books for them I try to put this right.".  In Granny the Pag I never got the feeling that she was “writing down” to her audience, but that she was telling them a story just as she would in one of her adult novels.  I also never realized until I read Ms. Bawden’s biography that she wrote this book as a woman nearing 70 because the voice she gave Cat was so youthful and she seemed so closely in touch with the situations Cat faced.  Cat is a very realistic heroine and the way she learns to stand up for herself, even when the odds are against her, is a message all children need to hear.


Children who have read Granny the Pag also give it rave reviews.  Tim, a fifth grader in Massachusetts wrote on his school’s website that Granny the Pag is “A great book about daily life for a ‘regular’ kid.”  And an anonymous reviewer on commented, “I went to the library and I told the librarian I wanted a good and easy reader and I got Granny The pag [sic]. I was blown away by the way it was written and I couldn't put it down!”  Librarians should feel confident in recommending Granny the Pag to children who want a book that will keep their interest.  In the words of Nina Bawden herself, “have fun, and good reading.”



Writers Online Website

Accessed January 26, 2006


Nina Bawden Website's_books.htm

Accessed January 26, 2006


Bridge Elementary School Library's (Lexington, Massachusetts), Student Fiction Book Reviews Page

Accessed January 26, 2006


Review on

Accessed January 26, 2006


By Monica Wood