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The Giant Rat of Sumatra: or Pirates Galore Hardcover – February 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8 - Fleishman's latest novel features pirates, bandits, romance, and revenge, all set in the lively world of 1846 San Diego. A cabin boy named Shipwreck arrives in town in the company of Captain Gallows, a dashing pirate with a good heart. While waiting to return to his New England home, Shipwreck helps the captain conceal a treasure while the man searches for his long lost love. The novel moves at a breakneck pace, with background about the fascinating historical period woven in between jewel thefts, duels, and narrow escapes. It's all good fun, punctuated by Fleischman's spirited prose and colorful dialogue, but the barrage of characters and events can be overwhelming at times, and some plot twists aren't fully developed. Readers may guess the hidden identity of the female bandit early on, but that development is still largely satisfying. The revelation of the true nature of the Captain's arch enemy, on the other hand, makes for a surprising and thought-provoking twist. The characterizations and conflicts don't quite match the richness of some of Fleischman's other works, but the brisk plot in a well-realized setting makes this an entertaining historical adventure tale. - Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-6. First shipwrecked and then captured by pirates, young Edmund Amos Peters winds up in sunny San Diego. Perhaps his life has taken a turn for the better. Alas, no, for the year is 1846, and the U.S. is at war with Mexico, which puts Edmund, an American, once more in jeopardy. But wait! The chief pirate, named Captain Gallows, is a Mexican who is determined to give up his life on the sea. Will he become Edmund's protector? Fleischman has written another tale that seamlessly blends rousing adventure and good humor. In the process, as he "confesses" in an appended note, he has completed a trilogy of sorts about California history that began with By the Great Horn Spoon! (1963) and continued with Bandit's Moon (1998). But even with that said, the open ending of this book seems to suggest a sequel. Ah, another mystery . . . Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Sixth Printing edition (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060742380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060742386
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,723,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Since his autobiography, The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer's Life, was published in 1996, Sid Fleischman has been stealing the spotlight with his exuberant brand of nonfiction. Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World is Fleischman's fourth true tale, following the widely acclaimed The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West and the best-selling Escape! The Story of The Great Houdini.
Fleischman's books have been made into films, performed as plays, and translated into nineteen languages. The author was awarded the Newbery Medal for The Whipping Boy.
Sid Fleischman lives in Santa Monica, California.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. L. Garwood MD on June 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Sid Fleischman wears many hats. He is a magician, a screenplay writer, a biographer, a gardener, a Newbery Award winning children's book author, the father of a Newbery Award winning children's book author, an autobiographer, and a good friend. Not only does he wear many hats, but can manage to pull a rabbit from each one.

One day, when he had some time between book projects to converse, I spilled out an idea for a children's book (hoping that Sid would take the bait). Now you should know that the only writer's block that Sid has occurs as a cramp in his right hand during a lengthy book signing - so he really didn't (and still doesn't) need any ideas from me.

But the idea was that a story could be written about a boy who spent his time reading famous books that had never been written.

Sid's response was "What are you talking about?"

"Well, you know, there are many books of which we all know the titles, but they really haven't been written."

Sid's response was "What are you talking about?"

"Well, you know, books like `The Giant Rat of Sumatra'."

"`The Giant Rat of Sumatra' has been written!"

"Do you remember reading it?"


"That's because it was never written. Oh, and by the way, it was not written by Arthur Conan Doyle - it was a Sherlock Holmes case."

"So what was the Giant Rat of Sumatra?"

"I don't know, I haven't read the book."

This was too much for Sid, who immediately researched the Giant Rat (his biographical skills came to the fore). Now, I must confess, when I had the idea of a boy reading famous books which had never been written, I had envisioned my younger self as being this character.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Forrest Wildwood VINE VOICE on March 9, 2006
Format: Library Binding
A young cabin boy's ocean life of high adventure is about to change. Anchored off California in 1846 as Mexico and America were at war and with her pirate days closing fast, the Far East pirate ship..with a figure-head of a huge jeweled eyed rat..comes home to rest.

This is a fun quick read that is sure to please the young and old adventurer. Written primarily for the younger grade schooler, this is good clean book. Filled with twist and surprises along the way, it is sure to please. Every Sherlock Holmes fan has heard of the giant rat of Sumatra but Doyle never wrote more than a passing word or two about the adventure. Just enought to peak the readers curiousity. Well, no Holmes here but just fun reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mel Odom VINE VOICE on March 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
Only twelve 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.
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Format: Library Binding
I picked up Sid Fleischman's "The Giant Rat of Sumatra (or Pirates Galore)" because of the title, and I casually started it at work, and then I was late back from break. Thanks a lot, Sid Fleischman. Your book is the best read I've had in a long time.

Twelve year-old "Shipwreck" has found himself the reluctant cabin boy of the gloriously decaying pirate ship "The Giant Rat of Sumatra" (so named because of the rat figurehead). His shipmates aren't a bad lot, for pirates, and when the deadly but decidedly charming Captain Gallows pulls into San Diego harbor it's clear that "The Giant Rat of Sumatra" has sailed her last voyage. The pirates are given the option to either find a new berth or join the Captain in his new life as a Don of Mexico. Shipwreck, though, isn't really given a choice. After a spontaneous display of loyalty to his Captain he is made the unwilling bearer of the emerald eyes of the Giant Rat herself. Walking around with a fortune sewn into your coat hem is nervous work when all your associates are pirates.

From there we have a serious of wild adventures involving one-armed men and lady bandits, underwater duels and pirate treachery, disguises and revelations, until at last we arrive at the final showdown as San Diego falls to the invading American army (it is 1846, after all).

A blast from start to finish, the "Rat of Sumatra" is a must for any fan (of any age) of pirate lore or adventure novels. Fleischman is a first-rate storyteller, weaving a fun plot with genuine literary merit and a beautiful way with words. I can't recommend this book enough, particularly if you've run out of Leon Garfield and are looking for someone new to keep you turning the pages.
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