Ratburger – David Walliams (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
Eleven year old Zoe has started at secondary school and things are not going well; she is poor, short and has red hair so she is bullied. To add to her woes her mother is passed away and her father is an unemployed ice-cream maker. To make matters worse her obese stepmother, who is obsessed with prawn cocktail crisps is utterly deplorable using her father for his benefits and doing nothing but criticise and Zoe. Her only solace is in her pet hamster, Gingernut, who she trains to do tricks. Unfortunately that does not last long as he dies as soon as the story begins. Unable to afford a replacement, even if her rodent hating stepmother would allow one, all seems lost, until Zoe finds a baby rat in her bedroom and her adventures begin.
David Walliams writes with a wicked sense of humour not far removed from that of Roald Dahl. He writes with a contemporary lilt which appeals to adults and children and more pointedly touches on a range of social issues which give his books some greater depth beyond the wit. I would recommend this book for nine to twelve years olds in the context of school but it is sure to appeal to a broader audience.
I would recommend this book as one for whole class reading and then it could be used to introduce a number of activities in different subject areas. I would particularly favour:
• To introduce PSHE topics around bullying, poverty, loneliness and animal welfare.
• Art projects
• Changing the genre to write a section during literacy to consider the influence style and structure has on the outcome of a piece of writing.
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