Ratbags 3: Best of Pests
192pp., graphic novel, RRP $A14.99
Rats, in general, do not have a good reputation for being friendly and kind, and The Ratbags are no exception. Their goal in life is to make trouble and to look for naughty things to do. They ream of mayhem and believe rules are for losers. Except for one – Jigsaw. He got his name because he does not fit in, like a puzzle piece that won’t squeeze into place no matter how much you twist and turn it. Jigsaw likes both rules and humans so he doesn’t fit in with the other rats and they shun him.
Now, after their antics in the second in this series by the author of the Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables series, the humans have had enough of rats and their ratbag ways. Even Mr Pecky has stopped giving them pizza. But things get taken to a whole new level when robot minks with laser eyes roam the streets, ready to destroy all ratbags, stray cats and jazz musicians! How are the ratbags to survive the humans’ latest pest control? By joining forces with their enemy, naturally! With Cracker and the ratbags on the same team, things are about to get really hairy!
Way back when, about 25 years ago, authors like Paul Jennings, Andy Griffiths and Christopher Milne brought a new style of writing to the children’s literature available at the time – a style that featured what became known as “toilet humour” in which bodily functions and similar subjects became normal and regular rather than the taboo territory they had dwelt in, and these stories, which immediately appealed to boys of a certain age, became a challenge for some adults to share – which, in turn, gave them even more appeal but, in the process, also turned a generation of lads into readers as they were determined to read the stories themselves.
Now, in a similar fashion, the availability and accessibility of the graphic novel format combined with characters and situations that make a lot of adults squeamish, is having the same impact. Both author and illustrator have a sound understanding of what their target audience is looking for and its method of delivery, so that they are drawn away from the screen and into the world of print where books can be shared and passed around and available on demand. They also know that kids are impatient and so this series has delivered a new episode every two months (the fourth due in September) so there is no interminable wait in between to see what happens next or have other distractions overtake the anticipation.
So regardless of what teachers and parents might think of this as that subjective, elusive concept of “quality literature”- and I would argue that the strong threads of friendship, standing your ground against peer pressure and being yourself take it into that realm anyway – if you have reluctant readers or those who just haven’t found a reason to read yet, then this is a must-have series.