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Literature / Sprat Morrison

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Sprat Morrison is a children's novel by Jamaican author Jean d'Costa, published in 1972.

The story details the antics and adventures of the titular character and his friends in Papine, a suburb of Kingston. One day as he's coming home from school, Sprat discovers that a yearly bush-fire on a local hillside is endangering the life of an elderly neighbor, and despite not being very brave himself, he goes out of his way to rescue her and get medical attention for her. Thereafter, he undergoes numerous experiences throughout the subsequent summer and in the days leading up to the Common Entrance Examinations that will determine whether he'll move on to high school.

The novel was published by Longman Caribbean, and is frequently used as an English Literature textbook in Jamaican high schools.


Tropes present in Sprat Morrison:

  • Action Mom: Aunt Pauline recounts helping to rescue two boys after they got trapped in an attic on top of a high building, where they'd been storing some of their old treasures.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Hitler fights often with Mischief, jumps the fence to steal any meat the Morrisons have prepared for dinner, and digs holes near the fence separating their yard from that of his owners, the Greens.
  • Artistic License – Geography: An in-universe case with Junjo. While studying for a geography exam in Chapter 5, he labels the Equator as the Tropic of Cancer, claims that Africa has no mountain ranges, and labels Mount Everest while neglecting the rest of the Himalayas. The only aspect of geography that he's any good at is naming the deserts of the world.
    Only the good Lord knows what it was about this particular aspect of geography that fascinated Junjo so, when he found the rest so easy to forget. He could also spell all the names of all the deserts correctly, and this for someone who could not even write a letter to his grandmother without at least two spelling mistakes in every line.
  • Book Dumb: Most of the True Companions are this to varying degrees (with Blossom being the smartest of the bunch), but Junjo is decidedly the worst of them all. There's also Arnold, who adds up a customer's bill four times with a blank face and still can't get it right; Aunty has to recruit Sprat to help him.
  • Butt-Monkey: Junjo gets this a lot. In Chapter 8 alone, he gets covered in motor grease, gets hit on the head by a falling hammer, and has a partially plucked chicken cover his face and fill his mouth with dust and feathers—all in the same incident.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander:
    • Sprat's grandmother is stated to be this.
    Aunt Pauline: Your grandmother does not believe in labeling things, and yesterday she put salt in her cocoa and sugar in the scrambled eggs. And ate the lot, saying that it came to the same thing anyway!
    • Aunty believes Mother Rebecca to be this. Her own son, Arnold, actually is this.
  • Coming of Age Story: The overall storyline is about Sprat's preparation to leave his primary-school life behind and enter high school.
  • Cowardly Lion: While not a paragon of bravery himself, Sprat really does want to do the right thing, and he will do it too, even in spite of his own fears. His rescue of Mother Rebecca in the first chapter is just one example.
  • Crusty Caretaker: Mr. Carpenter, the old farmer.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mother Rebecca. "Don't argue, or you will be bitten both by the mule and me."
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In Chapter 5, the gang laughs at Junjo for his extremely poor spelling skills. During the following geography class, he covertly causes Alvin and Desmond to experience embarrassment by physically distracting the former (and causing Alvin to get caught and scolded by Miss Watkins when he tries to retaliate) and feeding the latter wrong answers when he goes up to the blackboard, somehow causes Cynthia Wright's skirt to get hinged on a nail which causes the skirt to be torn (despite apparently not being close enough to hitch the skirt to the nail), and later on causes Sprat to have to help him finish his woodwork class assignment.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Sprat is not a fan of vegetable salads, and will only eat any of his veggies to please his mother. Following Chapter 10, he develops a strong aversion to patties after Junjo gets food poisoning from eating four of them.
  • The Eeyore: Elvira, the Morrisons' maid, fits this trope to a T.
    If it rained, Elvira expected floods. Sunny weather was a sign of earthquakes to come. A crow sitting on a fence meant the death of someone near and dear.
  • First-Episode Twist: A variation of this occurs in Chapter 5. The chapter informs the reader in a very brief sentence that Junjo grows up to become a customs officer. This information, while assuring us that Junjo won't be Book Dumb all his life, gives away a major plot point that occurs later in the novel (namely, that Junjo survives his bout with food poisoning in Chapter 10).
  • Food Porn: The book describes food and mealtimes in minute detail.
  • For the Evulz: Despite Cynthia Wright not being part of the group that laughs at Junjo for his bad spelling, he sets her up for a major embarrassing moment in geography class because he already doesn't like her much anyway.
  • Genre Savvy: Junjo is smart enough to know that standing under trees in a thunderstorm is a BAD idea.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: In Chapter 1, Alvin tells the others that he'll be staying with his grandmother in Hanover for the summer, as an alternative to going to summer camp. Since the others don't have relatives in the country to escape to, and the prospect of camp is very real, they are quite cross with him. It doesn't help that he's a Smug Snake about his upcoming trip.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Duppy Bay in Chapters 3 and 4. "Duppy" is the Jamaican word for "ghost."
  • Jerkass: Junjo, Mr. Carpenter and Elvira all qualify. Mother Rebecca is this too, but not to such a great degree as the aforementioned three.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Junjo. And Elvira in Chapter 11.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Desmond, Alvin and Junjo have shades of this, the former two where sunlight in England and the North Pole is concerned, and the latter concerning world geography.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Mother Rebecca quickly turns out to be this, the first time Sprat meets her in Chapter 1. Previously she had a (rather unjustified) reputation as an Evil Matriarch.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: You don't name a dog Hitler without a good reason.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Junjo.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Three examples.
    • "Sprat" is actually a nickname derived from the small fish of the same name, but everybody in the book refers to him by that name. Real first name: William.
    • Junjo's name is actually a derivative of his first and second names. His full name is John Joseph Mackenzie.
    • There's also Aunty, the local shopkeeper.
  • Pet the Dog: Junjo describes Sprat as his best friend during his writing essay in Chapter 5. Also Elvira's acknowledgment of Sprat in Chapter 11.
  • The Resenter: Sprat slowly becomes this toward his younger cousins in Chapter 7, due to having to share his living space with them while their permanent home in Airy Castle is being set up, and also for the attention they take from everyone. Fortunately, he gets some gratification when he goes to visit Aunt Pauline on an errand.
  • Servile Snarker: Elvira. Her response to Sprat and Mr. Morrison laughing at a Funny episode involving the family's chicken, which was moments earlier stolen by Hitler:
    Elvira: You laughing? Tomorrow you will laugh again when you get pure feathers for your dinner!
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Sprat is on the idealistic side. Elvira, the Morrisons' part-time maid, is far beyond the limits of the cynical side.
  • Threatening Shark: Sprat's father prevents him from swimming in Duppy Bay's waters due to sharks.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Sprat has shown a preference for lemonade, and Mother Rebecca admits to being very fond of chicken despite being a vegetarian. In Chapter 8, Junjo seems to like raisins.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Chapter 11 gives us a view of what happens to the True Companions following the Common Entrance Examinations.