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Literature / Ratburger

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Ratburger is a 2012 book by David Wallams (who also wrote The Midnight Gang and Gangsta Granny).

It involves a small, ginger girl named Zoe who lives with her father (who is a bit gloomy because her mother died and he lost his job) and her mean, lazy, prawn-cocktail-crisp-obsessed stepmother Sheila in a dilapidated apartment. The book begins when Zoe's intelligent pet hamster Gingernut dies, then she finds a baby rat and decides to keep him.

She names him Armitage because she sees that name written on the toilet bowl, but unfortunately, everyone asks why he's called that. She still thinks the name suits him but finds it embarrassing, so she says, "It's a long story" every time.

The book's title comes from the fact that Burt, the shady burger man, is actually making his burgers from rats and Zoe has to get Armitage back.

Ratburger contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Some people call Miss Midge "Miss Midget" because she's so short. Usually, this is intentional, but occasionally they accidentally say it to her face.
  • Alliterative Name: Tina Trotts.
  • Animal Lover: Zoe loves animals and her dream job is to have a performing menagerie.
  • Animal Goesto School: Zoe takes Armitage to school in her sweater, but gets busted when he first poops on the bathroom floor, then climbs from Zoe's pocket onto her head.
  • Bad Liar: Raj is said to be a bad liar.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Burt turns rats into burgers and cockroaches into "ketchup", and Sheila killed Gingernut.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The villains are dead, Dad has his job back, and Tina Trotts is no longer a bully. However, Tina's father is still abusive, and Zoe and Tina's apartments are still in bad condition.
  • Blatant Lies: Burt once draws a mustache on himself and claims that he is Burt's twin brother. When asked for a name, he claims to also be named Burt, because his parents were "very poor and couldn't afford a name each".
  • The Bully: Tina Trotts starts off as a bully who punches and kicks people, teases Zoe and salivates on Zoe's head.
  • Character Death: The book begins with Gingernut dying and at the end, Burt and Sheila die.
  • Daddy's Girl: Zoe and her dad love each other very much.
  • Disappointing Heritage Reveal: On the list of hypothetical embarrassing situations to happen at school, one is discovering that you're related to the headmaster.
  • Distressed Dude: Armitage ends up in danger from Burt.
  • The Ditz: Sheila is so dumb that she thinks Burt's drawn-on mustache is real.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Zoe dislikes prawn cocktail crisps.
  • Dog Stereotype: Zoe has to dodge an aggressive Rottweiler at one point.
  • Downer Beginning: The first few sentences of the book are, "The hamster was dead. On his back, legs in the air. Dead."
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Burt and Sheila both fall into the former's pulverisation machine and are made into burgers. If this wasn't a kid's book, the readers would be let known for sure that there was blood everywhere. A group of rats earlier in the book meet the same fate.
  • Fat Bastard:
    • Played straight for Sheila, who is extremely round and also evil.
    • Subverted for Tina Trotts, who has a fat belly and started off a bully but reformed.
  • Fat Idiot: Played straight for Sheila, who's incredibly dumb, but averted for Raj and Tina who are of average intelligence.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The narrator says that the reader might have eaten one of Burt's rat burgers him/herself.
  • Freudian Excuse: It turns out that Tina Trotts is a bully because her father is too.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Zoe tries to defy this by rejecting several girls' names for Armitage.
  • Heel–Face Turn: At the end, Tina Trotts apologizes.
  • Lazy Bum: Sheila is so lazy she doesn't even want to press buttons on the TV remote.
  • A Lizard Named "Liz": Sheila says she'd name a rat "Ratty", but Sheila says that it's unoriginal.
  • Missing Mom: Justified for Zoe's mom, who died when she was a toddler.
  • Misspelling Out Loud: Sheila says, "You're grounded! You hear me?! G-R-O-N-D-E-D!".
  • Mistaken for Own Murderer: When Zoe is sad about her hamster Gingernut dying, Raj the newsagent tries to sympathise by sharing that he once had a tadpole named Poppadom, who "died" — he then reveals that he found a frog in his bowl. Zoe tries to explain that tadpoles turn into frogs, so the frog probably was Poppadom, but Raj thinks she's just trying to cheer him up.
  • Not Blood, Not Family: Downplayed — Zoe refuses to call her stepmother Sheila "Mum", but that's more because she's a Wicked Stepmother than because they're not blood relatives.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Zoe once remembers a classmate who everyone at school, even the teachers, only calls "Hairy Bum", because of one time when he mooned out the school bus window.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted, according to her crossed-out tattoos, Sheila was married to two men named Steve.
  • The Napoleon: Miss Midge, Zoe's teacher, is extremely short and very grumpy.
  • Nightmare Fetishist:
    • Miss Midge likes to go on about the gory parts of history like the Black Death.
    • Sheila seems to like the idea of rats getting "pulverized".
  • Noodle Incident: Sheila's last husband died in a mysterious incident. The only thing revealed is that it somehow involved prawn cocktail crisps.
  • Nose Nuggets: One scene involves Raj pretending snot is candy.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: When the author talks about how easy or hard certain animals are to smuggle into school, he notes that "boobies sound too rude." He then adds a foot note explaining that a booby was a type of bird "in case you thought I'd made them up for a cheap laugh. As if I would do that!".
  • Potty Emergency: When escaping from the apartment, Zoe really has to pee.
  • Running Gag: People asking why Armitage is called that and Zoe being embarrassed that she named him because she saw it on a toilet bowl, so she says, "It's a long story."
  • Spelling for Emphasis: Sheila grounds Zoe by saying, "You are grounded, you hear me?! G-R-O-N-D-E-D!". Zoe points out that there's a "u" in "grounded" but Sheila denies it.
  • Stern Teacher: Zoe's teacher Miss Midge is very stern.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Discussed when Zoe wonders if Tina's secret is that she's really a boy named Bob.
  • Talking Animal: None feature, but Zoe imagines herself having a circus that features a cat doing voice impressions of famous cartoon cats.
  • Toilet Humour:
    • Armitage being named after a toilet.
    • Zoe finds out Armitage is a buck because he pees on the wall and she's convinced it came from a "spout".
    • Armitage is found out because of a dropping.
    • Sheila chastises Dad for having bad "aim in the bog".
  • Unnamed Parent: Zoe's dad is only ever referred to as "Dad" in the book, Even though the TV adaption from 2017 has confirmed his name is "Gary"
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: When Zoe is trying to explain to Raj why she's covered in dust, she claims she's dressed as a superhero named "Dustgirl" who's power is she's good at dusting.
  • You Are Grounded!: Sheila grounds Zoe for being "mean" to Burt.