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The Great & the Small Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
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Whether it is the underground animal kingdom described, or the world of human beings depicted here, the book keeps the reader interested and mingles these worlds thoughtfully into a plot that keeps the pages moving.
I would gladly include this book on my classroom bookshelf or in my personal library.
It's not like I love rats. So why on earth do I like A T Balsara’s new book, one of whose heroes is a rat named Fin?
Because it’s a well-written, absorbing book about the friendship between a “four-leg” (Fin) and a “two-leg” named Ananda.
Because the four-legged characters are even more interesting than the humans.
And because the book shows how easily a charismatic tyrant can sow anger, hate and division and bring their followers to war against others.
Fin faces a mighty struggle in this book. His choice could have deadly consequences.
Fin’s guardian “Papa”, a seemingly loving relative, is the leader of the rats. He hates humans. Indeed, the rats seem to have history on their side – humans have done horrible things to them. Humans, meanwhile, still remember the great plague in which people died from a disease carried by rats.
Into this cauldron of hate and distrust, Fin and Ananda meet and become friends, leaving them both to face grim and dangerous choices.
Written for a young adult audience but also suitable for adult audiences, this book handles the underlying themes of trust and hate towards those who are different, and who are deemed to be enemies.
A T Balsara is both writer and illustrator of this book. Her story-telling is compelling, and her drawings are superb.
The Great and The Small by A.T. Balsara spins a narrative that intertwines the adventures of Fin, a Tunnel Rat, and Ananda, an adolescent artist, as they negotiate the ups and downs of their respective communities. The framework of Stalinist political oppression and the Black Plague of fourteenth century Europe provide a backdrop for the dramatic, high stakes commentary on interpersonal relationships. Not only is the reader led into the complex intrapersonal angst of the characters in the story which triggers deep reflection along relatable themes of bullying, loyalty and free will, but also led to consider the thread of hope offered by complex iterations of love, sacrifice and service. All this, in an engaging, action driven story that is at once visually stimulating and acoustically active: Balsara’s descriptions and dialogue make the context and characters jump off the page.
The beauty of the prose, crafted as carefully as the illustrations, is matched by the engaging pace of the plot. Complexity is woven through creative use of dreams and flashbacks, a sophisticated switching between various points of view and quotes from fourteenth century witnesses at the beginning of each chapter.
I enjoyed the honesty of the motivations of the characters and their setbacks throughout the narrative. Social commentary was provided through character voices that were not paternalistic or preachy, and bolstered by the credibility of them being immersed within the web of crisis and triumph that peppers the plot. The development of character from beginning to end was believ- able, with realistic twists that relaxed any sense of contrived messaging. I find it noteworthy that a YA dystopia is couched within our shared human history, rather than a futuristic fantasy world: a valuable takeaway about the treasury of our common global experience to date.
This book is like a Z is for Zacharia meets Stuart Little mash up, with a touch of Harry Potter resilience mixed in. If I had to put it down, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. It’s suitable for classrooms, families and those who enjoy a dynamic story that will explore the complexities of individual freedom, trust and love as it relates to social welfare and global consequence. And, if you weren't a rat lover before this book, you might find yourself reconsidering, after the final chapter.