The Ratcatcher’s Daughter by Pamela Rushby
Published by HarperCollins Australia
Despite wanting to stay on at school to do further study, thirteen-year-old Issy McKelvie has to start work as a maid at the local funeral parlour in order to help supplement the family finances.
It’s 1900, and the plague, otherwise known as the Black Death, has just arrived in Australia by way of the flea carrying black rat - Rattus rattus.
As cases of plague begin to be reported in the town, Issy’s dockworker father soon discovers he can earn excellent money working with his dogs as a ratcatcher, but when he suddenly falls ill its up to Issy to carry on the family business of eliminating the town of the plague carrying, disease infested rats. Issy hates rats, but what she finds even more horrible is having to kill the wretched creatures. Not a suitable job at all for a young girl, although Issy soon learns to overcome her revulsion and she and her dogs do the work quickly and efficiently.
As the plague begins to infect and dispatch people in the town, Issy discovers the harsh realities of life, such as the social injustice of there always being one rule for the rich, and another one for the poor.
Pamela Rushby tells a vivid story of poverty, inequality and hope, a story that tugs the reader back through time in order to experience a real taste of Australian history through the eyes of a spirited and courageous young girl named Issy, the ratcatcher’s daughter.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Pamela Rushby
Title: The Ratcatcher’s Daughter
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: April 2014