Paul McCartney’s Grandude Green Sub puts Duchess of Sussex’s picture book in the shadows


If only the NHS weren’t so busy, it would offer a tailor-made counseling service to celebrities suffering from the dangerous delusion that they can turn into children’s authors. We have all lost count of the afflicted. Geri Halliwell, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Lampard, Whoopi Goldberg, Simon Cowell, Russell Brand… Madonna alone has published ten.

One or two, like comedian David Walliams, are very successful. But much of this hastily-executed celebrity literature is forgettable at best; while some of them – most notably this year’s The Bench, a grossly sentimental picture book by the Duchess of Sussex – are memorably ghastly.

It’s no wonder professional children’s writers, who often receive advances of less than £ 2,000, are fed up. But can Sir Paul McCartney, one of the last century’s most revered songwriters, bring new shine to this somewhat tired business?

At 79, McCartney is no newcomer to youthful fiction. In 2005, he collaborated with Philip Ardagh on High in the Clouds, which despite its evocative title turns out to be an environmental parable about a squirrel whose forest is destroyed by bulldozers. But now he’s gone solo and his career is picking up steam.

His first picture book, Hey Grandude! (2019), tells the story of a grandfather who takes his four grandchildren (“Chillers”) on epic journeys using a magic compass. This week sees the release of a sequel, Grandude’s Green Submarine.

Some of our most enduring picture books are those that focus on the tiny drama of everyday events. In Shirley Hughes’ beloved Dogger, for example, the whole story revolves around a missing toy. But McCartney allows the reader less pause to catch his breath. In Hey Grandude! the action oscillates between the Alps and the Wild West; and children overcome avalanches and avoid buffalo stampede. “They brushed shimmering blue waves on the backs of the flying fish, before resting again on the warm sand,” reads a typical sentence.

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