Ratburger by David Walliams
|Ratburger by David Walliams|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Zoe doesn't have a very happy life. Her dad's given up trying and spends his time down the pub. Her stepmother's so lazy she tries to get Zoe to pick her nose for her. And Burt, who sells burgers at the school gate, has got his beady eye on Zoe's pet rat. If you want to know why, there's a clue in the title . . .|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: September 2012|
|Publisher: Harper Collins|
|External links: [david-walliams.co.uk Author's website]|
There are lots of similarities between the style and plot of this book and those of Roald Dahl. First of all you have a child who is living in a situation so outrageously terrible that it becomes funny, and for whatever reason, all the other adults around don't seem capable of helping. The villain, while being fairly two-dimensional, has enough disgusting and frightening qualities to make readers shiver in delicious anticipation whenever they appear. And the miseries just keep piling up until it doesn't seem there's any way out.
David Walliams' books are extremely popular among young readers, and this one will be welcomed with open arms. It joyously throws aside all those worthy tomes which try to help young people see their stepmothers and stepfathers as good, kind people with their best interests at heart, and instead endows Sheila (Zoe refuses to call her Mum) with every slobbish and squirm-inducing quality possible. She's lazy, casually cruel and self-centred. She's grubby and smelly, and she eats prawn cocktail crisps from morning till night. Worst of all, Zoe can remember a time before Sheila appeared on the scene when she was actually happy, even after her real mum had died.
Believe it or not, Sheila has a couple of rivals for the title of Worst Villain in the Book. First of all there's Tina Trotts, a fourteen-year-old girl who could make a grown man cry – and often does. Her speciality is flobbing on Zoe's head. And then there's Burt, who's spotted Zoe's secret pet rat Armitage (don't ask her to explain how she came to call him that: it's a long story) and intends to steal him. For lunch. Indeed, the only good person in the book until quite near the end is the local shopkeeper who lets Zoe have a quick lick of the sweets he sells when she's hungry.
Part of the fun of books like this is that the plot is utterly absurd, in the real sense of the term. Yes, there are lots of children in real life who live in poverty. Yes, they have to endure loveless stepfamilies. But Walliams takes these miseries and turns them into a laugh-out-loud (and sometimes groan-out-loud) silliness which is so extreme it becomes a pleasure to read, ably assisted by Tony Ross's brilliant illustrations. Grossness is heaped upon grossness, and the adults, even the best of the bunch, are either too foolish or too weak to do anything about it. What is left is the lone child at the centre of the chaos, and so the reader becomes utterly invested in her, willing her to stand firm, to beat the baddies at their own game and come out, at the end of the book, in a happier, better place. In real life a child can't do much to fight back against what they see as injustice, and certainly can't mete out a thoroughly satisfying punishment. In fiction they can, and it's as good a reason as any other to escape into a good book.
You can read more book reviews or buy Ratburger by David Walliams at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Ratburger by David Walliams at Amazon.com.
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