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Martin Rattler

by R. M. Ballantyne
259 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Nienna

Interesting, informative, and amusing read.


"Martin Rattler was a very bad boy." So begins this amusingly written, interesting tale of an English boy who accidentally becomes a sailor on the Firefly. Together with his older Irish friend Barney O'Flannagan, Martin escapes pirates and survives a shipwreck to explore the beauties and dangers of South America.


Good. Fair play, honesty and courage are highly valued. Martin sets aside his own desires to please his aunt, and tries to always do what is right, aside from his feelings.

Spiritual Content

Martin and Barney are firm Christians; however, this does not show up very frequently in the book. The first person they meet in Brazil is a recent convert and he gives an impassioned speech about the need for the Bible in Brazil. The priests of Brazil are not Christians and the people believe what they will.


Martin fights another boy to save his cat from being drowned, and is quite bruised and battered. While sitting in a small boat, he is blown off from shore by a gale. Their ship is chased by pirates and wrecked on the Brazilian shore - though Martin and Barney escape, it is assumed that the others are captured. Martin is bitten by a blood-sucking bat, which leaves him weak for a day. They fight a jaguar. Alligators are hunted. The pair are captured by savages and fear being tortured and killed. Barney gets in a fight with some of the natives and leaves most of them unconscious on the ground.

Drug and Alcohol Content

The natives drink something which could well be alcoholic. Barney smokes a pipe and another man smokes a cigar.

Sexual Content


Crude or Profane Language or Content



A rollicking adventure story, with characterization reminiscent of G.A. Henty and a surprisingly lighthearted writing style, Martin Rattler is a book every boy (or girl, such as myself) will enjoy. Readers will learn about the jungles of Brazil, and the Christianity is well done.

Fun Score: 4
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 13+

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