Friday February 8, 2013
Zoe’s pet rat
Review by TAN SHIOW CHIN
Author: David Walliams
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 317 pages
THERE is no better way to describe this book than the blurb at the back of it:
“Meet Zoe. She’s got a lot of things to be unhappy about:
> Her stepmother Sheila is so lazy, she asks Zoe to pick her nose for her.
> The school bully Tina Trotts makes her life a misery – mainly by flobbing on her head.
> And on top of it all, the dastardly Burt has terrible plans for her pet rat.
I can’t tell you what those plans are, but there’s a clue in the title of this book....”
Oh, and if you’re wondering what “flobbing” means, let’s just say that it involves spit (or possibly snot) and a drop from a tall height.
Now, Zoe is just your average little girl, one who lost her mother when she was a baby, and lost her dad (to the pub) when she was 10, leaving her to the untender mercies of her evil, lazy, prawn cocktail, crisp-loving stepmother.
Before you start thinking that Zoe’s dad must be a useless man, let me tell you that despite his pub-loving ways and misjudgement in his second wife, Zoe’s dad is really not a bad person.
In fact, he and Zoe had managed to build a very happy life together after Zoe’s mum died.
The two of them considered themselves a team, especially when it came to his job – making new ice-cream flavours.
Zoe had thought she was the luckiest girl in the world, because her dad would come home every day with fascinating new ice cream flavours for her to be the first to try out.
And then when she was 10, he lost his job when his company decided to relocate lock, stock and barrel to China. There were no other jobs to be had, and Zoe’s dad had to go on unemployment, which made him very sad and depressed. Soon, he started going to the pub to drown his sorrows, and it was there that Sheila – Zoe’s evil stepmother, if you remember – got her fat claws into him.
Before you knew it, they were married, and Sheila had moved into Zoe’s home to make her life miserable. Now, the only joy in Zoe’s life was her hamster, Gingernut; Zoe was training Gingernut to become the first breakdancing hamster in the world.
So, dear reader, it might come as a shock to you when I reveal that this book starts off, in its very first sentence, with poor Gingernut’s demise.
But if you have been concentrating, you might have noticed that a pet rat was mentioned at the beginning of this review, and of course, the title is Ratburger, not Hamsterburger.
So, if you surmised that Zoe would eventually try to fill the void left by the late Gingernut with a pet rat, then you would be right!
Now, Sheila had always hated poor Gingernut; in fact, it would not be a lie to say that the thought of hamster homicide did cross Sheila’s mind. So you can just imagine what her reaction would be if Zoe told her that she wanted to keep a pet rat!
Dad, unfortunately, would not be of any help, because of his depression, and Sheila’s larger-than-life bullying manner. Therefore, it is up to Zoe to keep her pet rat a secret, which includes smuggling it to school.
But school also means having to keep Armitage the rat a secret from her teachers, fellow students and, most importantly, Tina Trotts, the school bully.
Another unexpected danger comes from Burt the burgerman, who sells his wares in front of Zoe’s school and who seems unusually interested in getting hold of her pet rat.
With so many dangers, will Zoe be able to protect Armitage?
Will her dad manage to pull himself out of his funk and become his old loving self?
Will Sheila get her comeuppance as every evil stepmother should?
The only way to get your answer is to read the book, which I can definitely recommend for tweens who enjoy lighthearted, funny reads.
Another bonus in this book are the funny illustrations scattered throughout the pages, drawn by Tony Ross.
And after your kids have read the book, parents who are young at heart might want to check it out too for a chuckle or two.