Review Blog

Nov 01 2012

Ratburger by David Walliams

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Ill. by Tony Ross. HarperCollins, 2012. ISBN 978 0 00 745353 5.
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Humour. Zoe lives on the 37th floor of a near derelict housing commission tower block with her father and now stepmother. She and Dad had a close relationship until he lost his job and married Sheila. So all Zoe has now is her pet hamster, Gingernut who she is training to do tricks. This she hopes will make her some money, enough for she and Dad to leave this awful place, but when she comes home after school to find Gingernut dead, she is bereft. One night she hears scratching, and discovers a baby rat in her bedroom. Her problems are solved. She takes him to school, away from the prying eyes of Sheila, and there lands into some trouble with the bully, Tina, when her pet rat, now called Armitage, bites her finger. But worse is to come. Their teacher Miss Midge is teaching about the Black Death, and the janitor comes to the class with the news that he has found rat droppings in the toilet.
So begins a very funny and poignant story about Zoe and her problems. In between the tale, Walliams is able to instill some asides about the living conditions of some people in the cities of England, and sympathetically show the devastating results of unemployment and the far reaching consequences of living in poverty.
Although it takes a long time to get into the main crux of the story (and it is over 300 pages long), the main character, Zoe, is a warm and interesting person to get to know and Walliams spends a lot of time early in the book making her most accessible, delineating her life and its setting with precision. Those around her are fascinating and Walliams is able to describe these people tellingly, derived I'm sure from minute observation, while Tony Ross' zany drawings add another dimension to this group of people.
Fran Knight

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