I travelled away to a conference recently and Ratburger was one of the books that I took with me. One of 6. I took six (actual books) away with me for a 5 night trip. Slightly excessive perhaps. But I did get through three of them and it's important not to run out, and have a bit of a choice. I'd taken my first Walliams title with me on my last conference trip in September last year (The Boy in the Dress), and it was such perfect travel reading that I took another one this time.
Ratburger is my fourth Walliams read, and his fifth published book- oh no I'm out of sequence again! It's probably the one where I found the cover least appealing. Rats and creepy looking guys don't appeal that much to middle aged women I guess. I should have known better and trusted him. Ratburger is I think the most gruesome Walliams book that I've read so far. There are many, many references to flobbing- a new word for me, but clearly British slang for spitting, from the back cover on it's ever present.
Our hero here is Zoe, 12 years old, who lives with her father and stepmother. Her dad has succumbed to overwhelming grief after the death of Zoe's mother,
Dad used to give her the best cuddles, but after Mum died he had retreated to the back of his eyes, and never came out any more.
and he now essentially lives at the local pub, which leaves Zoe trapped at home with her evil, fat, prawn cocktail crisp eating stepmother, Sheila. A true evil stepmother if ever there was one.
Zoe's family is poor, living in a high-rise council estate. She is rather miserable at home, and is bullied at school.
Zoe didn't have many friends at school. What's more, the other kids bullied her for being short and ginger and having to wear braces on her teeth.
When her beloved pet hamster, Gingernut, dies she is quite bereft. Until she finds a young rat, who she names after a toilet, and an extraordinary sequence of events follow.
Ratburger is the grossest Walliams I've read so far. He creates a perfect villain- gross, nasty and mean. And there are perfectly Dahlesque teachers like Miss Midge.
Miss Midge would refuse to teach anything but the most grisly passage of history: beheadings, flogging, burning at the stake. The teacher would grin and bare her crocodile teeth at the mention of anything cruel and brutal and barbaric.
Ultimately, though Ratburger is about holding onto your dreams. I read a quote recently that children's books should always leave the reader with a sense of optimism or hope, which may or may not be true, and which I can't find the original for the life of me, but Walliams seems to be doing that with all of his books, but with suitable amounts of gore and humour along the way. I'm going to run out of his books soon!
I think I love David Walliams' books
as much as these kids do