Peter thinks the only way he can reclaim his room is by declaring war on his grandfather.
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, William Allen White Award, Tennessee Children's Choice Book Award, Parents' Choice Award, An IRA-CBC Children's Choice, Mark Twain Award, Young Hoosier Award, South Carolina Children's Book Award, Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader's Choice Award, Georgia Children's Book Award.
An Excerpt from The War with Grandpa
This is the true and real story of what happened when Grandpa came to live
with us and took my room and how I went to war with him and him with me
and what happened after that.
I am typing it out on paper without lines on my dad's typewriter because
Mrs. Klein, she's my 5th grade English teacher, said that we should write
a story about something important that happened to us and to tell it "true
and real" and put in words that peoples said if we can remember and to put
quote marks around them and everything....
My little sister, Jennifer, just came in and asked me what I'm doing and
I told her....
"I think you should begin with me," Jenny said, "because I found out Grandpa
was coming to live here before you even knew about it."
"Good idea," I said.
"And put in the story that I am very beautiful with long blond hair and
lovely blue eyes."
"I just did."
"Now you'll have a good story," she said.
Excerpted from The War with Grandpa by Robert K. Smith. Copyright © 1984 by Robert K. Smith. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About Robert Kimmel Smith
“Humor is a big part of me, perhaps because I find life hard to get through without looking on the funny side. But humor is not why I write, it’s kind of a side dish that comes with the main course. More important for me is that my work projects warmth, love, compassion and a feeling of family,”—Robert Kimmel Smith
Robert Kimmel Smith’s The War with Grandpa has received 11 State Reading Awards including the William Allen White Award and the California Young Reader Medal. Robert Kimmel Smith is the recipient of the New York Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature for the body of his work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Kimmel Smith was eight years old when he read his first book, a book that moved him enough to make him cry. It turned out to be a life-defining event, because after that experience he decided not only that he loved reading, but also, luckily for us and for his millions of fans, that he wanted to become a writer. Little did he know that he would grow up to become an award-winning author, whose books have sold millions of copies and are making a difference to millions of children.
It would take thirty years for his dream to become a reality. He embarked on his writing career in 1970 after leaving the advertising business. But as Smith himself described it, his foray into writing books began entirely by accident and he credits his daughter with getting him started. It seems that one night he was making up a bedtime story for his daughter, Heidi. As he was spinning his yarn, it began to grow and grow and take on a life of its own. Heidi urged him to finish the story, which ultimately became his first book, Chocolate Fever. Heidi must have known that there was something delicious about that story, because Chocolate Fever went on to sell almost two million copies.
But, ideas for books don’t always come that easily. Ideas come to Smith from life experiences, from things that happened to him personally or from things that happened to people he knew. Jelly Belly was drawn from his own childhood, when he was the fattest child in fifth grade. The War with Grandpa was inspired by events that involved his son, Roger, who one day told him that he loved his room and “never wanted to live anywhere else.” That gave him the idea to write a story about a boy who has to give up his room for his grandfather. And what an idea it was, for The War with Grandpa garnered 11 state reading awards (five within one six-week period) including The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award (Vermont), The South Carolina Children’s Book Award, and The Mark Twain Award (Missouri), among others.
Mostly Michael was written for some fifth graders who asked Smith to write about an “average” kid who doesn’t like school. According to Smith, he wrote The Squeaky Wheel because he wanted kids to know that there was life after parents divorce, and that kids have to speak up for their rights. Though told with humor, it is a powerful book that won the 1990 Parents’ Choice Award for Story Books.
Some authors are highly structured, outlining every step of a book’s process. But Smith starts with a hero, an opening situation, and a loose idea of where the story will go. “I don’t want to know everything; that would be too boring for me. So in a sense I am discovering the story along with my characters,” says Smith.
The message he wants to convey to children with his books is simple but fundamental: “Get the most out of yourself, enjoy life, and be good to people along the way.” He says that he also writes about making moral choices, without lecturing his readers. Smith says “I think I wrote Chocolate Fever just to say ‘you can’t have everything every time you want,’ which is a basic truth except for the IRS.” But there is a far more basic reason that Smith writes books: “My secret agenda is to create books so entertaining they get kids hooked on reading, particularly boys, who need help.”
Robert Kimmel Smith was born in Brooklyn, New York. He still lives in Brooklyn with his wife Claire in a big old Victorian house. They have two grown children: Heidi and Roger. Robert and Claire both love to cook, and both are fanatic baseball fans. They go to movies and the theater. Smith plays tennis, swims, gardens, and tries not to gain weight.
Robert Kimmel Smith’s works include: Chocolate Fever, Jelly Belly, Mostly Michael, The War with Grandpa, Bobby Baseball, and The Squeaky Wheel. In addition to writing award-winning books for children, Robert Kimmel Smith has also written five adult novels, numerous short stories and plays, and the script for the television production of Chocolate Fever for CBS StoryBreak.
“Smith delivers his most satisfying performance to date.”—Starred, Booklist
“This is an upbeat, refreshing celebration of the spirit of our national pastime.”—Publishers Weekly
“There never seems to be enough baseball stories; a welcome addition.”—Kirkus Reviews
“You’ve heard of too much of a good thing? You’ve never heard of it the way it happens to Henry Green. Henry’s a chocolate maven, first class. No, that’s too mild. Henry’s absolutely freaky over chocolate, loco over cocoa. He can’t get enough, until—aaarrrfh! Brown spots, brown bumps all over Henry. It’s (gulp) Chocolate Fever, Robert Kimmel Smith’s pleasantly unpreachy cautionary tale.”—The New York Times Book Review
“It’s all quite preposterous and lots of laughs, and so are the cartoon illustrations.”—Publishers Weekly
“Told with humor and careful detail by someone who has been there, this will be enjoyed by the thin as well as the fat.”—Children’s Book Review Service
“Smith shows a rare understanding of the process of growing up.”—Kirkus Reviews
THE SQUEAKY WHEEL
“Entertaining and substantive; Smith’s readers will be pleased.”—Booklist
“A thoughtful depiction of the effects of divorce . . . strong characterizations.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Smith hits upon a lot of truths.”—School Library Journal
“Mark is a character who will engage readers.”—The Bulletin
THE WAR WITH GRANDPA
“The humor of the story derives from Peter’s first-person account and from the reader’s recognition of Peter’s valiant effort to maintain two mutually exclusive emotions.”—The Horn Book Magazine
“Peter tells his story with honesty and humor. . . . By the story’s end, Peter has learned much about the causes and effects of war—and human dignity.”—School Library Journal
"Captures the anger and frustration that accompanies a child's inability to control his life."--School Library Journal.
WINNER 1987 Kansas William White Award
WINNER 1994 Massachusetts Children's Book Award
WINNER 1990 California Young Reader Medal
WINNER 1987 Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award
WINNER 1987 Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice Award
WINNER 1986 South Carolina Children's Book Award
WINNER 1986 Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fischer Book Award
WINNER 1987 Indiana Young Hoosier Award
WINNER 1987 Missouri Mark Twain Award
WINNER 1987 Nebraska Golden Sower Award
ABOUT THIS BOOK
When 10-year-old Peter Stokes finds out that his newly widowed grandfather is coming to live with the family, he is glad because he really likes his grandfather. However, when he discovers that the plan is for his grandfather to take the room that Peter has had all his life, he declares it unfair. At the urging of his two best friends, Peter declares war on his grandfather to recover his rightful property. Family love is not destroyed, but attacks and counterattacks escalate until Peter finally surrenders--or does he win?
Family and Relationships -- Peter's parents made the decision to give Peter's room to Grandpa before they told Peter and Jenny that he was coming to live with them. How did that make Peter feel? Grandpa thought that there should have been a family conference. He and Peter solved the problem, and then had to convince Peter's parents to agree. Brainstorm with the class ways in which families can avoid conflicts, solve problems, and make decisions. Ask students if they could use these ways to solve differences with their friends as well.
Family and Relationships (Intergenerational) -- Not too long ago, it was common for grandparents to stay in their children's homes when they could no longer live alone. Ask students if any of them have grandparents living in their homes. (Some students may live with their grandparents.) Discuss with students what the advantages of having another generation in the home might be and what challenges this might present. Make a chart with their answers and ask them what families can do to ease any problem situations.
Peer Pressure -- Peter, Billy, and Steve had been best friends since kindergarten. They visited in each other's homes, played board games, and got along in spite of their differences. Ask students to what degree they think Peter was influenced by his friends to start the war with Grandpa. When might Peter have given up his campaign if not for their encouragement? Ask the students if they have ever felt pressured by their friends to do things they aren't sure they should do? How can they resist these pressures and still maintain their friendships? When are friendships not worth saving in these instances?
Language Arts--In chapter three, Peter describes his room. Ask students to read it again carefully. Ask students what it tells about him. What does he like to do? What is important to him? Have students write a description of their own rooms or a favorite room in their house. What does this room tell about its occupant(s)?
Throughout the book, the author develops Peter's character, showing him to have conflicting emotions. He loves his grandfather, but he will play mean tricks on him to get his room back. Have the students find as many examples of this as they can (pp. 33 and 34, 59, 66, 75, 99). Discuss character development with the students. Let them share how this makes the reader feel about Peter and Grandpa.
The solution to the problem in The War With Grandpa is that Peter does get his room back, with Grandpa's help. However, there is another solution to a problem presented at the beginning of the book, which relates more closely to Grandpa. Discuss the revival of Grandpa's spirit, and Peter's part in it.
Throughout the book, Robert Kimmel Smith uses figurative language; for example, "cried like a maniac" (p.16), "mad as a wet hairnet" (p. 26), "springing up like a weed" "(p. 31), "mean as Darth Vader" (p. 75), "solid as the Rock of Gibraltar" (p. 91), and "looked like asterisks" (p. 96). Point out one or two of these similes to the students and challenge them to find as many as they can. Have the class discuss their findings and explain how these descriptions add imagery to the story.
Art -- It is very important that illustrators show the events that happen in a story as the author describes them. Have the students look at Richard Lauter's illustrations in this book. Have students draw their own depictions of what the artist drew, for example on page 82 Peter's bedroom.
Math -- Peter Stokes had lived in the same house all his life. Many people move one or more times while they are growing up. Record how many students were born in your town, how many have moved once, twice, etc. Make a bar graph of the results. Or use the scale on a map to figure students' moves "as the crow flies." Make a bar graph of the distances from zero to the highest number.
Science -- In chapter 27, Grandpa takes Peter on his first fishing trip. Grandpa explains that they must get up early because the best time to catch fish is when they come to feed at high tide. Have the students research "tide" in a print and/or an electronic encyclopedia, and in an almanac. What place in the world has the greatest difference between high and low tide. If you live near the shore, check your local newspaper for tide listings and discuss current tide tables.
Teaching Ideas prepared by Betty H. Teague, Library Media Specialist, Blythe Elementary School, Greenville, SC.
Suggested Classroom Activities
Assign two or three chapters throughout the book to individual students to practice reading at home. Have those students read their chapters onto an audiotape. Place the tape of the whole book in the classroom listening center with the book. All the students can enjoy the book before discussion begins.
Vocabulary/Use of Language
Peter and his friends (and later Grandpa) compare Peter's war with various wars in American history--the American Revolution, World War II, etc (pp. 43, 52). Many terms associated with war are used. Have the students list as many as they can find and show how they relate to Peter's war (e.g., guerrilla warfare, p. 42; bomb, p. 57; declaration of war, p. 58; flag of truce, p. 61; attack, p. 63; war wounds, p. 74; psychological warfare, p. 105).
An IRA-CBC Children's Choice Award
Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award
Kansas William Allen White Award
Tennessee Children's Choice Book Award
Missouri Mark Twain Book Award
Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award
South Carolina Children's Book Award
Pacific Northwest Young Reader's Choice Award
Georgia Children's Book Award
The Alabama Library Association's Young Readers' Choice Award
"Peter tells his story with honesty and humor.... By the story's end, Peter has learned much about the causes and effects of war--and human dignity."--School Library Journal
"The humor of the story derives from Peter's first-person account and from the reader's recognition of Peter's valiant effort to maintain two mutually exclusive emotions."--The Horn Book
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Western Wind by Paula Fox
Grades 5, 6, 7, 8
The Canada Geese Quilt by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
Grades 3, 4, 5
Dear Napoleon, I Know You're Dead, But... by Elvira Woodruff
Grades 4, 5, 6
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
In the Classroom
Using The War with Grandpa in the Classroom
The War with Grandpa offers an engaging story as well as an opportunity for interdisciplinary connections in language arts, science, social studies, math, and art. It will tie in with any family unit as well as providing discussion starters for the prominent themes of the book: solving family problems, resisting peer pressure, and understanding an older relative's point of view.