Rubbish Town Hero by Nicola Davies

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Rubbish Town Hero by Nicola Davies

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Chipo and his sister work on the rubbish dumps for a few pennies a day, just enough to keep them alive. But when Chipo is caught trying to smuggle something out, the two children find themselves on the run, searching desperately for a new home.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 248 Date: March 2012
Publisher: Corgi
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780552563024

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What is most striking about this excellent little book is the utterly matter-of-fact way it is recounted. Violence, near-slavery, starvation and disease are as familiar to the children we meet in this story as television and homework are to its readers. The story is told through the eyes of Chipo, a young boy who can neither read nor write but who willingly took over responsibility for his little sister Gentle when the bombs killed the rest of his family. Gentle has a cleft palate and finds it hard to swallow or speak, but she dreams of a place she calls Happy Split-face Land, where people like her can be healed. She saves up for the trip by washing old plastic bags (she is paid a penny for every hundred), and although Chipo does not believe such a place exists the big brother in him will do nothing to take away her hope. There is no self-pity, no jealousy or resentment evident in either child for the things they do not have, simply a determination to survive and make enough money to stave off hunger and disease. The result is a cracking good story, full of heart-stopping danger and wild escapes, extraordinary encounters and heart-breaking generosity.

It is a difficult thing to write a story about children who are abused and misused by society for reasons they do not understand, without sounding preachy. Ms Davies manages to pull it off by having characters who are as much like children everywhere as they can be in their circumstances, and by sending them on a series of colourful adventures which require all their courage and resourcefulness. At no point does she openly invite the reader to be shocked or distressed by their plight: the story speaks for itself, and at all times sadness and fear are balanced by optimism and human kindness. One particularly strong scene involves the kidnap of a family member, and a ransom note: the subsequent search for someone who can read (Chipo has always maintained, until now, that it is an unnecessary skill) almost destroys everything the children have worked to achieve.

This a lovely book, written in language which is simple and accessible but nonetheless allows the full drama of the situation to unfold. Readers will almost be able to smell the stench rising from the rubbish, taste the choking dust and gag at the swamp water with its floating dead rats and poisonous mud. It is a book which will appeal to both boys and girls, and would make a splendid book for a class to read together. The squeals of disgust will be punctuated by quieter moments as pupils begin to understand just how alone these children are, and there may even be a tear or two as the story comes to its end. There is ample material for discussions on poverty, war, friendship, loyalty and the environment, and the information given here about what actually happens to the TV sets discarded by the rich west is truly shocking. Buy it, read it, discuss it!

Another excellent story of children who survive by working on a rubbish dump is Trash by Andy Mulligan, which comes very highly recommended indeed by Bookbag.

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Buy Rubbish Town Hero by Nicola Davies at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rubbish Town Hero by Nicola Davies at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Rubbish Town Hero by Nicola Davies at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rubbish Town Hero by Nicola Davies at


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