Monday, August 29, 2011

Booktalk! Joe Rat



I admit I did not have high expectations for this story as it has kind of a crummy cover.  And I know you’re not suppose to but I usually judge a book by its cover.

So let me just say first off, wow.  Scary, dark, gritty, tragic and uplifting are some of the words I came up with to describe what I thought after reading it.

7th graders will do a Victorian Project with Ms. Munson this year.  I highly recommend that you read this book first because it will definitely peak your interest in the topic.

Joe is a street kid, he’s known as a ‘tosher’; someone who crawls down into the sewers and sifts through the filth and sludge looking for things that have been lost down the drains.  It’s a nasty job and the author pulls no punches in his descriptions.  Joe is trapped in a cruel life.  He owes money to a wicked criminal mastermind known as Mother so he spends his days running between her and the sewers and trying to stay one step ahead of the thugs roaming the streets.

Despite all this hardship and injustice, Joe seems to manage to still be a pretty nice kid.  So when he finds a young runaway girl he can’t help but try and save her.  What unfurls is an adventure of Victorian proportions; you’ll be chased down the slums and back alleys of the London rookeries. You’ll witness children sold like animals at market and hear the howls of a madman who haunts a cemetery. You’ll practically be able to smell the fields in the country-side and then the foul stench of the city.

I know I’ve been talking about the descriptions a lot but they make up such an integral part of the story, its hard not to go on about them.  So, to give you a taste I’ll quote a snippet from the beginning of the book which really captures the style and essence of the story.

Darker than the dirt of the street, a creature emerged, dripping. Crouched, cowering on all fours, its head swayed this way and that, checking up and down the street. It could have been a dog. It was too big for a cat. Then, as the creature straightened up, the whites of its eyes caught the light.  It was a boy.

I’m making this sound like a really gruesome book but actually Joe is such a likeable character that you root for him from beginning to end.  And every time he skips out of danger you cheer and wait to see how he does against the next adversary.

However, if you read this book at night, you’ll definitely want to leave a light on when you go to bed.

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