Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Review: Ratburger by David Walliams

Things are not looking good for Zoe. Her stepmother Sheila is so lazy she gets Zoe to pick her nose for her. The school bully Tina Trotts makes her life a misery – mainly by flobbing on her head. And now the evil Burt from Burt’s Burgers is after her pet rat! And guess what he wants to do with it? The clue is in the title…

A copy of Ratburger by David Walliams arrived on Thursday, courtesy of the lovely people at HarperCollins. If I hadn't had a huge pile of work that needed marking for the next day I would have dived in immediately as I was just in the mood for some Walliams humour. I spent the whole of the next day looking forward to reading it, and once the school day had come to an end I forwent the encouragement of my colleagues to join them for an end of week shandy at the local public house, and instead drove home with but one intention - to read Ratburger from cover to cover.

As I confessed in my review of Gangsta Granny, I was something of a latecomer to the books of David Walliams, but since then I have read all three of the titles that preceded it. Gangsta Granny was definitely my favourite of the four, and when comparing in order of their release it is easy to see how David Walliams is developing as a writer. Ratburger is no exception, with the author's writing continuing to develop, and there is now no doubt in my mind that his books will eventually become recognised as classics, and that in the future we will be talking about his work in the same breath as Roald Dahl.

Ratburger differs from David Walliams' previous books in one very obvious way - none of those books had a stand out villain. We all know that kids (and most adults) love a really nasty villain, and now it is as if the author is rewarding his readers for their patient wait. Burt (yes, not a particularly dastardly evil name, but this is a David Walliams book) is as nasty as any of the classic villains from the annals of children's literature. I don't want to ruin things by telling you too much about him - as it says on the back: "...there's a clue in the title of the book...". And Burt isn't the only villain of the piece - there is also a wicked stepmother and a thuggish school bully to add to the misery of main character Zoe's life.

As with his previous books, Walliams continues to show his mastery of both character and pathos. Just like Dahl, the lives he creates for his main characters are generally unhappy, although not to the point where they wallow in their misery. Zoe has pretty much accepted that her life is not going to improve and so she makes the most of the few nice things that come her way. This means that his young readers are sympathising with the protagonist from the get go, finding it easy to imagine themselves in a similar situation, something I remember doing when I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The BFG when I was a child.

If you read reviews of David's books you will very quickly get the impression that he is single-handedly turning a generation of under 10s into book lovers. Someone give this man a medal! Ratburger is a must-buy book for any child of 8 or older, and even though it has some rather disgusting moments, slightly younger children will still love it when read as a bedtime story. Don't be squeamish parents - kids love grusome! I now feel the need to buy this book for every child of this age that I know, but sadly I can't afford to. However, my godson's younger brother, who has yet to become an avid reader like his older brothers, will be the lucky recipient of the audio book (which I so want for myself). I heard David Walliams reading a passage on The One Show last week, just after I had finished reading the book, and the voices he gave his characters made me want to read it all over again.


  1. Hi, I subscribed to your blog a while ago but only had a really good look at it tonight. I love it - a great place for boyish reading! My 9 year old son is a voracious reader - something I am thankful for! He is coming to the end of reading all the Alex Rider books and I have been on the hunt for the next thing to keep him engaged. He has also read all David Walliams except Ratburger and all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He likes comedy, but he also likes adventure without being patronised. I wondered whether Time Riders might be a good next step, but worry it might be a bit old for him - thoughts?

  2. Hi Sarah. Thanks you for your comment and your kind words about my blog. It is great to hear that your son is such an avid reader. At 9 I think he may just ne a year or two too young for the TimeRiders books, especially as the series progresses when they begin to deal with themes that are more suited to 11+ readers.
    Has he read the original Percy Jackson series? I am guessing he may have, but of not it was these books that turned my godson and his brothers into big readers. Frank, who was 11 in May, has been into the Skulduggery Pleasant books for more than a year. They do touch on elements of hooror, but the comedy in them makes them suitable for the more confident younger readers. Frank has also devoured Michael Scott's Secrets of Nicholas Flamel series, which again are aimed at 11+, but they are superb action/fantasy stories. Other favourites include Artemis Fowl, and Mark Walden's brilliant H.I.V.E. books.

    1. Hi Darren,
      Thanks so much for the detailed reply!! He has read Percy Jackson, but none of the others. Of course Nicholas Flamel was also a Harry Potter character (as well as a real person of course!), so that might familiar to him. I'm off to the library tomorrow so will borrow a selection for him based on your recommendations - I'll let you know how he gets on! Thanks again - I bet your students love you btw!

  3. i am appaled that you think this is a book JUST for boys. i am a girl and i love it!!!

  4. Thanks for sharing the good information with us. Keep it up.

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