Vasco, Leader of the Tribe

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
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Tale of rodent bravery has intense fight scenes.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Characters are shown acting with bravery, mercy, and heroism in the face of many dangers.


Men kill rats in giant machines and rats fight gruesome wars with each other. Rats are described biting and clawing each other to death over food, territory, and leadership rights. They describe the taste of blood. One rat's back is broken when a human hits him. Another incident involves starving rats trying to eat newborn baby rats.


Mice pick mates, have babies, and nurse their babies.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there are some pretty graphic fight scenes between the rats. Some rats are killed and their broken bodies are described. One rat is blinded by another and there are several descriptions of a mouse tasting the blood of another rat during a fight. There are fights for revenge, cruelty, food, political position, and territory.

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What's the story?

Vasco has a mystery on his hands. When his tribe and millions of other rats begin disappearing, he has to figure out what's happening to them. A long journey full of danger, hope, agony, and peace lies before him.

Is it any good?

Author Anne-Laure Bondoux immerses readers in a world that is familiar -- city streets, the deepest bowels of a ship -- and gives it a new perspective. Through the eyes of Vasco, a rat who has recently lost his entire tribe to a mysterious new weapon from men, we experience the dangerous world of rat tribes. There is political intrigue, diplomacy, family values, and war.

Readers will lose themselves in the twitches, scurries, and nuances of being a rat. Bondoux has captured the rat world with so much imagination and detail it's hard to believe she's never lived among them. However sensitive readers especially will be put off by the brutal fighting scenes. They sometimes overshadow the story, piling on more and more conflict rather than working toward a more satisfying conclusion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about loyalty and animal cruelty. How is Vasco's loyalty to his tribe recognized? Vasco often proves himself to be brave. How does he do this? How are humans portrayed in this book? Does this book change your view of "vermin"? Why or why not?

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