The Four Grannies is one of the stories DWJ wrote for younger readers, and have been reprinted in the Freaky Families omnibus with the short story “Aunt Bea’s Day Out.” As the titles of both the omnibus and the story will clue you in, this is another story of children dealing with annoying adults/family members. In this book, Erg and Emily’s parents are going away for a conference. As their parents attempt to arrange for one of their grandmothers to look after the children, all four grandmothers claim to be busy. But when the parents are gone, each of the grannies arrive, one after another, saying that they ended up coming because the children needed looking after.
Each of the grannies has a distinct characteristic that Erg describes them by – Granny One is the strict granny who always says No; Granny Two is a worrier who things that everything that could go wrong would; Granny Three is rich, stingy and self-involved; Granny Four is saintly and would feel faint over anything she disapproves of. Being so different from each other, the grannies all have different ideas of what the children needs, all of them boring/awful as far as Erg is concerned. When Granny Four gives Emily a book about a wicked girl named Emily, she ends up locking herself in the bathroom to read it, and comes out of it determined to reform herself, and talking in the same saintly manner as their saintly Granny Four.
This disgusts Erg, who then decides that the machine he’s building (he’s always inventing things) is a prayer-machine, and he prays for it to take Emily away. When he finds that Emily has been replaced with a large teddy bear, Erg is alarmed. He has to get her back before the grannies notice – and to do so, he needs time. So he starts working on distracting them, from making use of their obvious differences and getting them to bicker, to rolling around in dirt so that they’ll have to keep doing laundry. When he’s out of ideas, he makes another wish to his prayer-machine for just one granny, because four are too many to handle. This backfires, of course, and Erg soon finds himself with one Super Granny – all four of them merged into one being.
There are a lot of funny moments, and it makes for an interesting read in the same way Who Got Rid of Angus Flint? did, but as can be expected, I still prefer DWJ’s books for intermediate and teen readers.