Ratburger by David Walliams and illustrated by Tony Ross, paperback novel, 317 pages, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2012.
In a council flat high in an old leaning building, lives Zoe, with her unemployed father and her horrible and lazy stepmother. She is quite alone in the world, with her Dad always at the pub, and her hateful stepmother eating crisps on the couch all day either ignoring her or screaming at her, but never once being nice. The school bully lives in the same block of flats too, and never misses an opportunity to give Zoe a hard time. Then comes a small rat into Zoe’s room and changes her life forever. Zoe’s rat is intelligent and Zoe begins training him to do tricks, whilst planning to become famous performers. Unfortunately the man that runs the burger van outside the school at lunchtime hears about her pet, and forms a nasty plan of his own.
Reminiscent of a Roald Dahl tale, possibly crossed with an Andy Griffiths story, Ratburger was funny, inspiring and touching, a tad silly, but most of all it was entertaining. Filled with plenty of gross stuff, such as disgusting grown-ups, nose picking, foul food, spitting, rats and of course ratburgers, this book appealed to my third grader and her friends. At the moment they all seem to be obsessed with bodily functions and smells… even just the names for different body parts and functions can have them in hysterics! My daughter also liked that many of the grownups in the story were depicted as being a little evil and a lot eccentric. Even Raj, the shopkeeper, had his oddball moments, including re-selling lollies Zoe had sucked, or chocolate bars less one bite. This view of adults satisfied my daughter’s perception that adults are just as weird as kids deep down, normally they just hide it better!
Ratburger was interspersed with black and white illustrations by the wonderful Tony Ross, author/illustrator of the Little Princess picture book series (very much loved in our house!). These illustrations caused much giggling alongside the story, adding further interest to an already engaging plot.
Ratburger was our first taste of David Walliams as an author (I’d already been laughing at him for years as a comedian, but my kids don’t know that!), and it has not been the last. My third grader begged for more of his books while barely laying this down after reading it for the first time. I love a book that can make my kids laugh, so as soon as I could, I bought a few more of his books, and they have been quickly devoured. If you’re looking for something that’s sure to make your middle to upper primary school child laugh themselves silly, try Ratburger, and wait for the guffaws!