How to Survive Without Grown-Ups by Larry Hayes

Illustrated by Katie Abey.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2021.

How to Survive Without Grown-Ups is so much fun! It’s a brilliantly imagined story with vampire squids, a dog that speaks dolphin and a sofa that converts into a pirate ship.

The book is set in the near future. Eliza and Johnnie’s mom and dad have left; they’ve gone to Mars and they’re never coming back… But this isn’t one of Dad’s weird jokes; it’s REAL. It’s up to ten-year-old Eliza and her genius little brother, Johnnie, to find out what’s going on and launch a rescue. Can they handle a maniac billionaire Armageddonist, a secret island full of traps, and a trip into space? And – more importantly – will they ever get their parents back?

Eliza is not your typical heroine. She’s anxious, prone to worry and frequently engages in catastrophic thinking. A lot of her behaviour was very familiar to me and I think it’s really valuable to portray and explore these mental health issues in children’s books. It’s refreshing to see a lead character who isn’t self-assured and bursting with confidence and to watch her wrestle with these personal demons.

There’s also a wonderful depiction of a brother/sister relationship. Johnnie is half Eliza’s age but he already outshines her academically and appears to have usurped his sister in his parents’ affections. The book explores jealousy and Eliza’s feelings of inferiority. Ultimately, however, the bonds of sibling love prevail and there are some very touching scenes.

The book is packed with terrific illustrations by Katie Abey, including a cracking map of the secret island. I also want to mention the – mostly silly – chapter names because they really made me smile.

How to Survive Without Grown-Ups is a very funny book with a great mix of adventure, science fiction and heart.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me this book to review.

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