Review Blog

Oct 02 2008

Ratwhiskers and me by Lorraine Marwood

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Walker, 2008. ISBN 9781921150395
(Age 10+) Highly recommended. Fleeing from a fire on the goldfields, desperately afraid, the 'Boy' follows his dog, Ratwhiskers, and stumbles into a tent town, where he is grabbed by two miners, Baldhead and Gingerbeard, and forced to work for them. A kind and helpful young Chinese boy shows where to find wood and water, and how to manage to survive the brutality of the miners. Then Ellery, a cold-hearted villain, threatens both the Chinese and the 'Boy', and it is a struggle to stay alive.

A touching verse novel, Ratwhiskers and me takes the reader into the goldfields of the 1850's, making that time come alive with vivid descriptions of the hardships, the violence and greed of some of the miners and the prejudice and fear that the Chinese people faced. Marwood's poetry is wonderful.  With very few words she is able to conjure up the emotions of Lin, who tells the story of her loss of family, flight from danger and the frightening people she meets on the way. It is a story about being alone and learning whom to trust in a time of danger. Marwood has created a cast of distinctive characters including Sassy, who died in the fire, the bullying miners, Sun Song and the Chinese, each brought alive through colourful descriptions. As well as describing the difficult life of the miners and the cruelty faced by the Chinese during the goldrush, the first person narrative sweeps the reader along on a thrilling adventure of treachery and survival.

This wonderfully descriptive story begs to be read aloud and will leave the listener and reader satisfied with a tale beautifully told while pondering the role of the Chinese on the goldfields.
Pat Pledger

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