A few months ago in the BOOKFABULOUS household, negotiations were under way to try and find a solution to a major dilemma I was having regarding my 10-year-old. I call it dilemma, JJ calls it drama but nonetheless it was time to sit down in the household's negotiating boardroom (the kitchen) and hash things out. As of late I had noticed that JJ was more into his DS case than his bookcase, so being who I am I panicked. I imagined a world where I'd give my son a book and he'd stare vacantly at me not knowing what it was, unable to decipher its contents. Sirens rang in my ear, and sleepless nights ensued the result of which the meeting was called and set.
I thought I'd start out calmly, maturely, all grown-uppish so I gave the usual speech of how great reading is and how personality building it could be. How I was doing this for his own good and that he'd thank me later in life. How reading could help with his writing at school when he moved to the more demanding Secondary phase of education and so on and so forth. Then I did what I had promised myself never to do (pre-children): I told him how when I was a child his age I'd already read 'Anna Karenina' and 'War&Peace' and for extra effect I said I did that by candlelight (I think that's where JJ gave me the drama-mum look). By the look on his face and judging by how old he thinks I am he didn't find the candlelight thing far-fetched... mental reminder to sit down for another meeting and discuss what decade I come from. Slowly the mum-son chat turned to lecturing and I desperately realised that we were going nowhere with this except for my son's body which seemed like it was slowly melting away from his chair as he slid further downwards and was eventually going to end up pooled under the kitchen table. This 'meeting' was definitely over!
A week later, JJ comes back home with his school book-club reading book "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens which is not easy reading for a 10-year-old. Judging by the look on his face reading the first page he was struggling. I offered to help in the reading and as they only had three weeks to complete the book, we decided that we would actually read together swapping who would be reader; he would read aloud a few pages and then ask me for the words he did not get or sentences he found quite ambiguous in the Dickensian English it was written in and then he would take a break from reading and I would read to him but stop to see if he was following up with the events of the story. It worked! three weeks and the book was done and we had both enjoyed the experience of reading the same book at the same time and having discussions about it even at times when we weren't even reading. The penny dropped and the solution to my dilemma seemed to be staring me in the face.
Once "A Christmas Carol" was done, JJ moved on to more modern reading in the form of 'Ratburger' by one of his most favourite authors David Walliams. But this time he asked to independently read the book after which I would have a go after he was done with it and then we would discuss it. Agreement reached we have since completed two books in this manner. The process seems to be working and fingers crossed I can put my fears to rest, for now at least!
As those of you who read the blog will have noticed I have included 'Ratburger' by David Walliams in the January Reads list and the reason- although obvious from my post- is because it was a landmark book for JJ and I. Therefore, it is JJ's review that I post below today. This is his own work (with really minor tweaks from myself) and he is really proud of his work as I am of him.
Finally to David Walliams we both say: thank you for in terms of role models they rarely get better than you (not that he reads the blog but one can only hope). Big love!
'Ratburger' by David Williams
Reviewed by JJ (age: 10 years)
Ratburger is a story is about a girl called Zoe whose mum we know from the beginning of the story is dead. Zoe is left with her dad who loses his job when the factory he works at shuts down. He now spends most of his time at the pub although he really tried to get a job but couldn’t find anything so he gave up looking. Dad has re-married Sheila who is a lazy, horrible , ‘fat, huge’ person.
Zoe has just come home to find that her pet hamster has died under suspicious circumstances and she is really upset about that. Anyway, one thing leads to another and she now finds a pet rat that she is convinced is smart enough to learn breakdancing moves.
One day, Zoe meets a man called Burt who is hiding an awful secret and who tries to kill first her pet rat and then her after she finds out about his secret. After Burt gets hold of her rat by force (thanks to nasty Sheila’s help) Zoe desperately tries to find him (his name is Armitage by the way but don’t ask why because it’s a long story. Honest). With nobody to help it seems like all is lost unless Zoe manages to convince the only person who loves her in the world to help.
Ratburger is an outstandingly funny book by David Walliams. I liked how he described the stepmother as “fat, huge”, and how she is always stomping to Zoe’s bedroom. Sheila loves nothing more in the world than her prawn cocktail crisps and spends all her time eating them. One thing I have to say here though is I can’t believe that Zoe doesn’t like these crisps. They are one of my favourites.
This book is one of the best of David Walliams’ books and I should know because I have read his other books: The Boy in the Dress, Billionaire Boy and Gangsta Granny. I would recommend this book to any child or adult who wants to laugh their head off. The book is very quick and packed with adventure. I enjoyed seeing the character Raj who seems to pop up in all David Walliams’ books. I also enjoyed the illustrations by Tony Ross.