Banjo Pickin' Karate Kickin' Crime Fightin' Grandmas

Children - Grade 4th-6th
252 Pages
Reviewed on 11/26/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Shrabastee Chakraborty for Readers' Favorite

Scarlett, Izzy, and Hazel were perfectly ordinary elementary school kids. When the trio wished to punish all the bad guys in the world, they did not imagine that their wish would come true in a most unusual way. As it happened, the lunch ladies passed the girls their hairnets with a secret legacy; the trio would inherit unimaginable superpowers once they donned the nets. But, there was a slight catch; their alter egos would be aged grandmas, deviating from the typical superhero images. Will the friends be happy with their new looks? Can they harness their newfound abilities to catch criminals? Will anyone take three grandmas seriously? Find out in Banjo Pickin’ Karate Kickin’ Crime Fightin’ Grandmas, written by Mike Knudson and illustrated by Vaughan Duck.

I honestly could not decide what I liked best; the hilarious antics of the three friends, the whimsical storyline, or the lively illustrations. From the first page, Knudson took us on a delightful ride. I had to laugh out loud as the trio got into trouble and invented progressively humorous solutions. The humor was evident in every aspect of the story, be it their questionable decisions or the impossible situations in which they kept finding themselves. I loved how Knudson created three unique characters who maintained their quirks even when adopting the alter egos. The illustrations were a powerful addition to the book. I loved Duck’s inclusion of the cast’s appearances at the beginning, which helped us visualize them clearly. Their expressions and poses perfectly conveyed the absurdity of the scenes. The story, albeit light in tone, nonetheless contains a message of body positivity. That the grandmas had superpowers despite their wizened appearances encourages us to look for inner strength, not superficial beauty. When the trio realizes that a lifelong friendship is a more precious gift than stylish clothes or athletic bodies, it is a profound message for readers. Banjo Pickin’ Karate Kickin’ Crime Fightin’ Grandmas is a funny yet wholesome read.

Shannon Winings

Banjo Pickin’ Karate Kickin’ Crime Fightin’ Grandmas, written by Mike Knudson and illustrated by Vaughan Duck, immediately pulls young readers into an imaginative journey full of fun and laughter. It features Izzy and her best friends – Scarlett and Hazel. Quickly, the cafeteria lunch ladies convince them to take on superhero roles. All they need to do is put on a magical lunch hair net. The girls’ magical hairnets don’t give them a superhero cape, but they do get new magic suits. In an added twist, they become grannies with wrinkles all over, gigantic noses, and granny super suits with even a banjo for Hazel. While their superpowers come with a learning curve, that does not stop them from using those superpowers to save the day. Back up, Spiderman! There are new superheroes in town.

Young readers and their families are sure to enjoy this book. For starters, the story begins with a detailed illustration of the cast, supporting cast, and Izzy’s family. It was a fun way to introduce the characters in the story, as well as provide readers with a “who’s who” to reference. It also helped me picture the vibrant, relatable characters better. In addition, the author skillfully pulls the reader into the crazy world of ten-year-olds and certainly kept me laughing to the very end. It is written from Izzy’s point of view and is an easy, independent read. Some younger readers may struggle with a few of the larger words sprinkled throughout the book. However, the book is a delightful choice for young readers looking for some laughs and entertainment.

Courtnee Turner Hoyle

Mike Knudson writes about fifth-grade best friends, Scarlett, Izzy, and Hazel, in his children's book, Banjo Pickin' Karate Kickin' Crime Fightin' Grandmas. Someone stole Izzy's bicycle, and she's upset about it in the lunchroom. Then a lunch lady asks her if she's willing to do something about it. Izzy and her friends are given hairnets from three lunch ladies who received crime-fighting powers from the hairnets after they were drenched in applesauce and mystery meat. The girls discover the powers of the hairnets, giving them new abilities like speed, strength, and banjo knowledge, but they also transform the girls into grandmas. The girls use their new set of skills to try to locate Izzy's missing bicycle and stumble upon an even bigger mystery.

Mike Knudson's book is a comical delight! Told from Izzy's point of view, it's easy to relate to her and her friends or relive the nostalgia of dodgeball and first friendships. Scarlett, Hazel, and Izzy's superhero alter egos move outside the bounds of age and deliver messages to young girls - for example, that there is beauty in everyone, no matter their age. Vaughan Duck's illustrations provide more humor and give readers a clearer picture of the three girls and their superhero images. The story is easy to read and fun to share, and the author leaves hints for the next book in the series. In addition, Knudson enjoys the banjo and provides some fun facts about the instrument at the end of the story. Banjo Pickin' Karate Kickin' Crime Fightin' Grandmas is a great selection for children who enjoy stories with a hint of mystery about quirky friends and unlikely superheroes.

Afifa Raisa

Banjo Pickin’ Karate Kickin’ Crime Fightin’ Grandmas by Mike Knudson is the story of three fifth-grade best friends: Izzy, Hazel, and Scarlett. There is nothing extraordinary about them, but one day their lives take an unexpected turn during lunch. The mysterious lunch ladies at school offer them three hairnets that turn the wearers into superheroes. As the girls put them on, they find themselves transformed into bizarre-looking grandmas with superpowers. They are desperate to save the world from bad guys, but every time they try to utilize their special abilities, they get into more trouble. One day Hazel discovers a surprising lead to a notorious bank robber, and the girls decide to get involved. Can this be the breakthrough they need in their careers as superheroes?

I knew from the title that I was in for a treat when I picked up Mike Knudson’s Banjo Pickin’ Karate Kickin’ Crime Fightin’ Grandmas. The first few pages removed all doubts. I absolutely loved Mike’s portrayal of superheroes in the form of grandmas with strange traits, which is unique and hilarious at the same time. The girls do not turn into perfect superheroes in an instant and make silly mistakes due to inexperience and overexcitement; I think it makes the characters more believable as well as comical. Another beautiful thing about the story is the way the friends stick together in the face of all their troubles and challenges, despite their differences. I would definitely recommend the book to children aged 9–12.

Pikasho Deka

Banjo Pickin' Karate Kickin' Crime Fightin' Grandmas is a children's superhero action-adventure tale by Mike Knudson. Illustrated by Vaughan Duck, the story follows three fifth-grade friends, Izzy, Hazel, and Scarlett, who, after receiving mysterious hairnets from three old lunch ladies, gain extraordinary superpowers. But the catch is, whenever they put on those magical hairnets, they turn into old grannies with flabby arms and wrinkly skin. Hazel also becomes a talented banjo player. After bungling their first attempt to stop crime, the ladies draw the attention of Officer Bagley. Izzy, Hazel, and Scarlett slowly learn to control their powers and fight crime with panache. However, a certain Feline Felon is causing havoc, and the girls already have a suspect. Can Izzy, Hazel, and Scarlett catch the Feline Felon?

If you're a fan of action-adventure stories with swashbuckling superheroes, waste no time and grab a copy of Banjo Pickin' Karate Kickin' Crime Fightin' Grandmas. The superheroes in Mike Knudson's tale are unlike anyone you may have encountered before. Brilliantly complemented by a tantalizing premise, vibrant characters, and Vaughan Duck's eye-catching artwork, Knudson weaves a captivating superhero yarn that is part sleuth mystery and part action adventure. The narrative is fast-paced and immerses you from the very first page. I liked the dynamic between the best friends. Izzy, Hazel, and Scarlett have distinct abilities, and when they suit up in their magical hairnets, they make a formidable team. Hazel's spunky persona is especially adorable. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to fans of superhero fiction, kids and young adults alike.