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The Garbage King

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  758 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
A gritty, deeply moving story that shows how the human spirit can triumph in the harshest of worlds.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Pan MacMillan (first published 2003)
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(showing 1-30)
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Polly Todd
Nov 26, 2010 Polly Todd rated it really liked it
I can't say that I was inspired by the cover or the blurb of this book. As I settled down to read, I was anticipating a tone of worthy exploration into poverty in the developing world. By the time I got to the end of the first chapter I was well and truely hooked!
Yes, the story does expose some of the issues of child poverty. Yes, it is set in Ethiopia. Yes, the contrast between the lives of rich and poor are contrasted starkly throughout. However - this book is a real gem in the way that it fli
Aug 15, 2015 Erika rated it liked it
Shelves: kids-and-youth, 2015
This book didn't wow me but it was still an interesting story about street "urchins" in Ethiopia. Good for grades 5+ but with a warning about references to prostitution, alcohol use, huffing of gasoline, and some swearing.
Jul 07, 2011 Chie rated it really liked it
The Garbage King, is the perfect title, i love the title. And I enjoyed this book! If you like realistic street life, tough children with personality, then you could be utterly charmed by this. I'm a sucker for earnest, hard-earned friendships, its close to home and as I know/knew people in similar situations, so found this sweet and might be biased because of so.

3.8 Stars, but happily 4 on the ratings
Iris Fagniez
This book was not really a binge book, however it was so captivating that I ended up reading it in only 2 days. The author was addressing a very serious issue, but was still able to make it sound not too depressing. Overall, I loved this book and will definitely be looking for similar genres in the future.
Mary Ann
Oct 20, 2012 Mary Ann rated it it was amazing
This book is quite an insight into the haves and have nots! Hopefully our children will never face the tragedy of surviving on the streets as the main characters of this story did!
Feb 24, 2015 Ananya rated it it was amazing

Nov 04, 2016 Gwyneth rated it really liked it
1. The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird is a fiction novel for older boys and girls that conveys the exciting and dramatic story of homeless street children forced to do whatever they have to do in order to stay alive in the streets of an Ethiopian city. The two main characters— Mamo and Dani—come from stable families but are tossed by circumstances beyond their abilities to control and into the dangers and hardships of street life. They find a temporary way to survive when they are taken into a ...more
Sheryln Tan
Jun 17, 2017 Sheryln Tan rated it it was amazing
This book here used to be my literature book! Recommended for ages 13-14👼
Vanessa Chan
This fascinating book tells a story of two different boys named Dani and Mamo. Dani is extremely rich and lives in a humongous house. However, his dad wants to send him away so that he would learn to toughen up.

On the other hand, Mamo is very poor. His whole family has died except for himself and his sister, Tiggist. A man who claims himself to be Uncle Merga pretends to take care of Mamo. In fact, Merga takes Mamo far away from the city and sells him to a farmer as a slave.

The two boys escape
Dec 01, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing

A moving story which looks at the lives of three different children living in Ethiopia. We follow the story of Mamo, who after his mother dies is taken away and sold as a slave. Miles away from home he forms a plan to get home and is lucky enough to find a helpful truck driver who gets him back to his hometown. However, when he returns he finds things very different. His sister has gone to work for a shopowner who has left town, taking Mamo’s sister with her, to look after her sick husband. Mamo
Jan 04, 2017 Vania4037 rated it liked it
The Garbage King tells the separate stories of two very different characters who happen to collide and join their stories together. Mamo is an orphan who wants to get a job, and his wish is granted--if being kidnapped and sold as a slave counts as a decent job. Dani is known as a rich boy from a rich family, but he only seems to be a disappointment in his father's eyes. Both boys run away to escape the situations they are in, only to meet each other.

The way that this book is written alternates f
Sadaf Hussain
Jun 02, 2016 Sadaf Hussain rated it it was amazing

This remarkable story is set in Addis Ababa the capital city of Ethiopia. Two boys from starkly different backgrounds are brought together by fate and forge a deep bond of friendship and trust despite their differences.
Dani hails from a rich and grand home where he is waited on by his many servants. In contrast Mamo is poor and has no home at all. Their lives become intertwined when Dani flees from his home to escape the wrath of his overbearing father and Mamo runs to escape a life of slavery.
Jan 17, 2011 Lisa rated it really liked it
This was a very good and easy to read book. It's audience was meant to be older children. Mary Payne, the librarian at Pearson Elementary School, recommended it to me and I was "officially" allowed to check this book out just like my girls check books out of this library!! The story takes place in Addis Ababa, just as the last two books I've read did ("Cutting With Stone" and "The Hospital By the River"). The story follows two boys, Mamo and Dani, as their lives take them to becoming beggars (go ...more
TEAR Australia
Feb 19, 2009 TEAR Australia rated it really liked it
Review by rebekkah middleton


The Garbage King is a touching novel following the stories of two families from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, whose lives couldn't be more different. Dani lives within the privileged boundaries of a grand home, private school and posh hotels. In another part of the city, Mamo and his sister find themselves having to cope on their own, unable to pay the rent on their one-roomed shack after their mother dies of a long illnes
Dec 17, 2011 Shamekia rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s
I'm glad this book found me! I'm currently living in Ethiopia and am hard pressed for anything to read, good, bad...whatever! Another U.S. volunteer gave me her copy of this book. Living here definitely helped me visualize the scenery so much better than if I were reading this at home.

I feel the crux of this story was the friendship between Mamo and Dani. The author did a good job of telling their separate stories and intertwining them, although I did find it hard to believe that a boy in Dani'
The Styling Librarian
The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird – Realistic Fiction/Multicultural, 6th grade and up – This book humbled me. It stung to read. Brilliant quick read about two boys who have very different lives but learn quickly how to rely on one another for survival. It is set in Ethiopia. One of my favorite books this year. Dani is a wealthy son whose father is difficult to communicate with and so he runs away from home. Mamo was tricked into slave labor after his mother dies and he works hard to escape. Wi ...more
Aug 13, 2016 Kath rated it it was amazing
I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Laird's writing. Her YA Novels are set in various third-world countries (where she has herself travelled) in which her protagonists often face the challenges of poverty, illiteracy and injustice whilst coming of age. Their struggles against antagonists are very real, based on stories Laird has gathered in her travels. THE GARBAGE KING is set in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and weaves together the stories of Dani, a somewhat pampered rich kid, and Mamo, a runaway child slav ...more
Jane Branson
Jul 18, 2016 Jane Branson rated it it was amazing
I recently had the privilege of hearing Elizabeth Laird speak at a conference. What a woman. She had her audience spellbound with stories of her life and times in virtually every war-torn corner of the globe. When she recounted her meeting with Karate, the boy who didn't know his own name, the room teared up and I left with a signed copy of The Garbage King, in which Karate plays a minor but important role. It's a great story, managing to combine a moving exploration of some of the most challeng ...more
Nov 26, 2016 Estherh rated it liked it
This book is called the Garbage King by elizabeth Laird. I give this book a star rating of 3 out of 5. The genre of this book is from the read around the world genre. I felt that this book is quite interesting. I enjoyed reading this book but I think it wasn't hard to put down. I liked some of the characters because their background was quite unique. This book was set in the Ethiopia's capital city which is Addis Ababa. This book is partly futuristic because it talks about the Mamo and Dani find ...more
E = Ethiopia.
This story follows the lives of two boys living in Ethiopia. One,Mamo, living in the slum area, is tricked and taken away from his home and sold to a cruel farmer. The other, Dani, doesn't get on with his bullying father and when his mother goes to England for an operation is threatened with being sent away to a cruel man. Both manage to run away and accidently find each other. I got into this story really quickly, though at the beginning I did feel like I was reading two stories me
Apr 01, 2013 Anna rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone!
Shelves: read-ages-ago
I loved this book, it is one of my favourite reads. It is so cleverly written and it tells the story of two boys, in Ethiopia. I love how the story flicks back between the two boys and tells their own opinion of the situation.
Mamo, lives with his sister without a proper home, his mother just died, and he is very lonely. One day something terrible happens to him, and you follow him on his journey.
Whilst this is happening, it tells the story of another boy, named Dani, who is completley differen
Feb 07, 2012 Theresa rated it it was ok
Fat, little rich boy, Dani, runs away from his strict, no-nonsense father and crosses paths with Mamo, who has just escaped from a slave life in the country.
The story was a bit too simplistic for it to be a YA book (Maybe for 8-12yrs). The friendship between the two boys could have been explored in more depth - I don't feel they managed to survive the streets purely because of each other but more because they were taken on by a decent gang after only a few days. And while Dani did change somewh
Lari Don
Jun 17, 2012 Lari Don rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids-books
A moving book about life for kids with no family safety net in Ethiopia. It follows three children, Dani, Moma and Tiggist, as they struggle to find their place and their future both in the countryside and in the capital city. The story deals with slave labour, child beggars and death on the streets, and it hints at prostitution. But it also contains love, honesty and companionship. I found the background and details totally convincing and the children’s stories very moving. But I doubt that man ...more
Oct 06, 2011 Susan rated it really liked it
Elizabeth Laird's story of two boys who cross paths in the streets of Addis Abiba is a gripping read. A European boy runs away to escape a strained relationship with his father. An Ethiopian boy struggles to survive as he also escapes mistreatment. These boys form an unlikely bond when they meet as homeless youths.

I felt sympathy for both boys, even though it seems that one has all the advantages of growing up in a wealthy home. By the time they meet and become friends, they are equals.

The Garba
May 31, 2016 Madeline rated it liked it
I read this for a project. I was really excited about it and had high hopes, but I was very disappointed. First, too many things were happening in 24 hours, then all of a sudden months flew by, then it was said only 3 weeks had passed, then more months had gone by again. I found the concept of time difficult to understand in this book. Also, the title was only referenced once in the book in a not so important part. I think a better title could have been chosen. Not only that, but some irrelevant ...more
Feb 28, 2012 Vazz rated it liked it
Compelling, well-written, engrossing book for young adults. I was hoping to learn a bit about Ethiopian culture reading this, but I didn't really learn anything new. The book could have been easily set in anywhere else, from China to India or Mexico or Afghanistan. Nonetheless, it's great and enjoyable. Kids should be able to relate to both leading characters of Dani (the rich boy who keeps failing school and feels unhappy at home) and Mamo (the poor boy who was kidnapped and sold as a slave, be ...more
Kyle Galloway
Nov 06, 2016 Kyle Galloway rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who enjoy novels influenced by culture and determination
Recommended to Kyle by: Teacher
We read this book in Grade 4, and I absolutely loved it. It was my teachers favourite book, and it brilliantly displays the class division in third-world countries such as Ethiopia. It is a beautifully written novel that realistically portrays poverty but also captures a great sense of compassion and determination. I spent a while trying to track down this novel as I could not remember the title however I am glad I found it as it has been just as satisfying to read to my older self as it was to ...more
Simar Panjeta
Jan 13, 2016 Simar Panjeta rated it liked it
This book portrayed human nature really well and illuminated many sides to it as everyone had their own story and how they are shaped as individuals based on their past and their environment. This book also explored difficult conditions that some people are put through. It also looks at the insides of poverty, gangs, slavery and crime. I particularly liked how the book showed the growth of the two characters, both their circumstances and their mind. However, I feel that at some points, it may ha ...more
I might describe this book as charming if I didn't live in Addis. Instead, it's given me a fresh perspective on all the levels of poverty in Ethiopia. Addis is a world with many many tiers, and while nothing is zoned (and cows meander down my street) people can live simultaneously in completely different worlds. It's a thoughtful and insightful book by an outsider who clearly loves Ethiopia. Best of all (compared to plenty of serious Africa books that I find myself reading) it has a happy ending ...more
Apr 12, 2016 Marcy rated it liked it
I definitely got fooled by the title of this novel for young readers. I had expected and hoped that it would centre around a garbage dump and the lives of the children who rummage through it. While this does occur in one scene--two thirds of the way through--it's about so much more than that. The story follows three children who wind up on the streets of Addis Ababa and they survive. It's a good story, although the narration drags quite a bit--especially in the first part of the novel. But it's ...more
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Laird was born in New Zealand in 1943, the fourth of five children. Her father was a ship's surgeon; both he and Laird's mother were Scottish. In 1945, Laird and her family returned to Britain and she grew up in South London, where she was educated at Croydon High School.
When she was eighteen, Laird started teaching at a school in Malaysia. She decided to continue her adventurous life, even though
More about Elizabeth Laird...

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