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Book Review: The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Sid Fleischman

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Only 12 years old, Edmund Amos Peters has already lived a life filled with incredible adventures. He and his father went down in a ship after leaving New England. Edmund was saved by Captain Gallows, one of the fiercest pirates still taking prizes in 1846. Nicknamed Shipwreck, for obvious reasons, he stays on as a cabin boy for the pirates.

I’ve read several of Siddhartha Fleishman’s novels over the years, starting with By the Great Horn Spoon! when I was younger than my ten year old. I’ve always enjoyed the way he’s clever with his characters and situations, and the fact that he doesn’t dawdle. His stories always have the characters doing something at a frantic pace.

Packed full of adventure and interesting characters, The Giant Rat of Sumatra captures the imaginations of kids (and adults!) from the opening pages and doesn’t let go until the end. There’s always some problem Shipwreck and the brave Captain Gallows have to deal with.

After arriving in San Diego, California, which at that time is Mexican property, Captain Gallows declares that he’s going to go straight. He buys himself new clothes, a ranch, and even renames himself. As Don Alexandro, he sets himself up in business buying cow hides.

This is old-style adventure writing at its finest. There are mysterious characters and nefarious doings from the opening pages, and a sea battle as Americans sail into the harbor in an effort to take the city in the final pages.

In between those hooks, the juvenile novel jumps through hoops to entertain young minds and adults as well. I loved the lady bandit and her semi-stalwart gang, and the pistol duel that Captain Gallows arranges for the control of her and her crew.

The descriptions of the places and the people brought a lot of images to mind. They all seem true to life. This is the third, and final, book in Fleischman's Mexican Trilogy.

The Giant Rat of Sumatra is a 2008 Sequoyah book. Kids in elementary school get to vote on the best of the lot if they read three of them. Parents are welcome to help, and I heartily recommend reading this one aloud, taking turns with your child if your child can read.

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About Mel Odom

  • What!! This has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes?!! Sacrilege!!