JOE RAT by Mark Barratt
Kirkus Star


Age Range: 12 - 15
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Joe, orphaned and unschooled, doesn’t know his own age or surname. He ekes out a living as a tosher, expertly sifting through the reeking muck of Victorian London’s sewers for trinkets to sell back to Mother, who controls the claustrophobic slum of Pound’s Field through extortion and brute force. In permanent debt to Mother, thanks to ever-compounding interest and his monthly rent, Joe rebelliously hoards small treasures in the walled garden of The Madman, a terrifying presence holed up in a crumbling house that towers over the neighborhood. When Joe reflexively protects Bess, a shrewd, gutsy country girl on the run from her mother’s scheme to sell her into sexual slavery, Joe’s life changes overnight. Hiding with Bess at the Madman’s house, where the ghoul emerges as a gentle, grieving soul, Joe ponders tantalizing possibilities beyond toshing. Gritty, flawed characters, propulsive plot and brooding atmosphere yield a gripping mash-up of Dickensian tropes with an Adam Rapp–like concern for throwaway children. A chilling mystery that will haunt readers long after the final page. (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5356-1
Page count: 310pp
Publisher: Eerdmans
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2009


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