Ratbags 1: Naughty for Good
192pp., pbk., 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.
But things might change when a new pizza shop opens in town…
This is a new series from the author of titles like Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables and this time he has joined with illustrator Shiloh Gordon to create a series that is likely to appeal to young boys, particularly those who don’t choose reading as their first choice for free time. With minimal text, cartoon-like illustrations, and lots of laughs, the story moves along at a fast clip more like an animated television program than a print resource, driven by the characters rather than events.
It’s the first in the series and there’s a quiz that readers can take to see which character they themselves are most like, because every little one dreams of being brave enough to not toe the line, unless they are Jigsaw. But just below the surface, there are subtle messages about friendship, peer pressure and having the courage to stand your ground. Despite the rats’ bad behaviour, however, there are several heartwarming messages buried beneath the surface. ‘It’s not preached at all, but there’s a nice subtle message that we can be friends with other people, no matter what our belief system or no matter how different we are to them,’ says Tim Harris.
Buy the first one and give it to your reluctant readers to determine if you should get the rest in the series. You may well hook them into reading not only this, but reading in general.