Review Blog

Dec 10 2008

Ratwhiskers and me by Lorraine Marwood

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Walker Books, 2008. ISBN 9781 92115039 5
(Ages: 10+) When Boy is taken by the men as a cook at their tent site, he feels safer than he has for a while. Meeting Pigtail gives him a friend, but the men warn him off, he is told not to talk to the Chinese miners. It is Bendigo during the early days of the Gold Rushes in Victoria in the middle of the nineteenth century. Using the technique of the verse novel, Marwood gives us a look at the gold field, with its rough single minded characters, the resentment towards the Chinese diggers, the deaths from all sorts of disease and the ugly disposal of the bodies.
Boy is soon exposed as a girl, in flight from the murder of her family during one of the many fires which ravaged the camp sites in Victoria. Nina has recollections of the fire which killed her parents and sister, but cannot piece together what really happened. When she must leave her loyal dog, Ratwhiskers, tied in a cave lest he give her away, she is taken by the evil Ellery and tortured to tell what she knows. An easily read adventure on the goldfields is sure to please upper primary students.
Fran Knight

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