‘Rafferty was starving. He was also homeless, motherless, fatherless, penniless, and (if he wasn’t very careful) on his way to being lifeless as well.’
So begins Rafferty Ferret: Ratbag, a rollicking tale of a courageous orphan boy. Homeless and hungry, Rafferty Ferret is desperately looking for a way to earn a living.
Set in medieval times, Rafferty has been living rough ever since his forced removal from the monastery he called home. The story begins with Rafferty in a pickle: he is stuck in a hazardous Leper Hole. Soon rescued by a kind baker and his (rather unkind) wife, Rafferty stumbles upon the unlikely occupation of bakery ‘rat catcher’. Before long, his rat-catching fame spreads throughout the village of Spickernell and his skills are in demand. Often meeting unsavoury characters involved in the business, Rafferty is pleasantly surprised to make friends with a young boy named Wyll. The rat-catching pair use their crafty natures to save themselves from the perils of homelessness.
Rafferty is a strong, clever and cunning protagonist who looks out for everyone (and every rat) around him. With few adults willing to help him, his adventures are brought about by his own determination to survive. Hearts will ache for Wyll, who, falling seriously ill, has only one hope – that Rafferty will be able to find him help in time.
Renowned award-winning New Zealand author and illustrator Sherryl Jordan has published extensively since the 1990s. Now published by independent children’s publisher OneTree House, her latest novel Rafferty Ferret: Ratbag will appeal to all children who love historical adventure – or simply a good story.
An effortless read, this book will quickly charm readers. A well-researched story which draws the reader into a medieval world of danger, illness, hunger and corruption, Jordan brings the setting and characters to life with vivid and lively prose.
Her beautiful writing reflects her artistic talent: ‘Thunder rolled and lightning sizzled across the moor making trees stand out stark and black in the lurid glare, and lighting the distant house with its streaming thatch and stone walls. When there was no lightning the darkness was complete, and there was only the fury of the wind and the tumultuous lashing of the rain.’
The seamlessly introduced historical language and delicate illustrations heighten the powerful emotional atmosphere of this adventure story.
Reviewed by Rosalie Elliffe
Rafferty Ferret: Ratbag
by Sherryl Jordan
Published by OneTree House Ltd