Wednesday 27 June 2012

179. Rubbish Town Hero by Nicola Davies

Rubbish Town Hero by Nicola Davies
Published June 2012 Random House Australia (Corgi Children)

From the publisher:
Chipo and his little sister Gentle live on Papa Fudu's dumpsite in Rubbish Town, searching for valuable things amongst the rubbish to try to stay alive. Life isn't easy - luckily, Chipo has spirit, courage and lots of imagination! And now, he has a plan... But when Chipo and Gentle are caught with something precious that Papa Fudu wants for himself, they have to think quick, move fast. Suddenly they're on the run... Along with their friend Dede and their loyal dog, Mouse, Chipo and Gentle set off on a dangerous and exciting journey to find a safe place to call home - meeting a cast of extraordinary characters along the way.

Chipo and his sister are orphans living in a crater in Rubbish Town.  Chipo spend his days working at the dump to find metal for Papa Fudu, who then sells these treasures on for much more than he pays his child workers.  Chipo's sister Gentle woks at the river, washing old rubbish bags, and gets paid one penny for every hundred bags she washes.  Gentle was born with a cleft palate, or split face as she calls it, and her dream is to go to the place she has seem in an old scrap of newspaper.  A place she calls Happy Split-face Land, where children like her can go and be fixed.  Her dream is to raise enough money to go there, have her face mended and be able to go to school.

When the time comes for the two to leave their rubbish dump home, they begin on a journey that will change their lives, taking with them their new friend Mouse, the dog. They first find themselves in a toxic swamp, saved by a horribly disfigured man who gives them plenty of food and shelter, in exchange for working at the TV dump site. Having so much food to eat and a place to sleep seems like a dream, but when Chipo realises that the children are sick because of the poisons coming from the TVs, then he knows they must move on.

The pair, now with an extra member, friend Dede from Rubbish Town, they make their way to the city where opportunity awaits.  They find their place with Miss Pink and Mr Calabash, and this family of sorts find work, a place to live and the security the children had longed for.

This may sound like a horribly depressing book, but it's quite the opposite.  Yes, it's difficult to read about children living in such horrible conditions, but their strength and hope shines through in a way that leaves you feeling uplifted.  While the ending for these children is positive, it doesn't just magically all turn out OK. They work hard, with the skills and resources they have and make a better life for themselves, with the support of the people who love them and that they now consider family.  Even though their lives have been so tragic and difficult, these characters have big dreams, and it shows that you don't need money or a fancy house, but you do need determination and the help of the those around you.

It is never stated exactly where this book is set, only that it's in Africa.  The sad truth is, that children live like this is so many parts of the world, Africa, The Philippines, Pakistan, India and Cambodia to name a few.  If you Google the words 'children working dumps', you will find more information about the worldwide problem.  See below for a link to the Small Steps Project website, where they are working to support the children living and working in dumps around the world.

It's a difficult book to put an age recommendation on.  The book is quite simple, and easy to read and there are black and white illustrations included throughout.  So while the book could be read by a good 8 year old reader, it may be better suited to an older reader, maybe age 10+.  I say this just because the maturity of individual readers will vary, and while the book isn't horrible graphic, it does raise questions about the world that we live in, that may need more discussion.

Who will like this book: Girls and boys age10+
Read it if you like: Trash by Andy Mulligan

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