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The Garbage King

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  972 ratings  ·  105 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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Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  972 ratings  ·  105 reviews

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Polly Todd
Nov 26, 2010 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
Aug 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, kids-and-youth
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.
Sarah Saleh
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A really great book that connects you with the main character really well!
Sep 19, 2017 added it
Shelves: read-just-right
This was a very good, emotional book. It made me more aware of what was going on in different parts of the world, especially where poverty is there.
Eluisa F
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Eluisa by: DCLibrarian
This is a really good book that gives an insight into street kids, slavery and struggles at school. I really recommend this book to anyone who has spare time on their hands.
Jul 07, 2011 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.
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
this is the first ever book that i have read. I read this book with i was 11 or 12 years old. This book got me into reading and ive been ever since. This book will always have a special place in my heart.
Mary Ann
Oct 20, 2012 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 rated it it was amazing

Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Why does a child leave a comfortable home and run away? Why are there so few safety valves for children in poverty? These questions are asked often in the media but are not generally answered. The Garbage King will provide you with some insight into the world of young teens struggling to make sense of their world.
This piece of fiction brings together two boys from two totally different social classes in Ethopia, who are searching for a way to survive, alone, on the streets of the capital o
Isa Rive
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
What happens when there is no one to turn to? Meet Mamo and Dani, each from different sides of the track. Each running away from something. There is a bullying father, sick mother, absent parents and child trafficking. As their separate stories are told they find each other when they are most lost. Each has something to give and share as their friendship grows on the uncertain streets of Addis Ababa. Heart wrenching storytelling (tears shed) infused with hope. The tale while not totally plausibl ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful story inspired by actual kids living on the streets in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Worlds of two different boys merge as they work together to survive. Running away, families, finding and using skill-sets, joining family, poverty, and human trafficking are all themes, and although mature are still appropriate for young-ish readers. A page turning and gripping read for any age. I will certainly seek out more books by Laird. Highly recommended.
Brian Olinger
Interesting, but not incredible, book. I’m normally a non-fiction reader who sprinkles in a few fiction books a year. This book was from a Goodreads recommendation. An interesting story with sympathetic characters. I enjoyed it despite some of the narrative stretches taken to bring storylines together.
Esther Prins
Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a good book. Not great, but good. The book is set in Ethiopia, but it doesn't tell a lot about the country or the culture. I think the thing that bugged me the most was Mamo's relationship with his sister - it seemed like Tiggist didn't care about Mamo at all during the book. That was quite disappointing. The rest of the book as a whole was okay, if not a little bit slow.
Awais Cash
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is book is absolutely amazing, it teleports you out this world and into the book, love it, easy read, i definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to acknowledge the struggle of the poor and also this books delivers a good moral of how you should be thankful for the life you have been granted. Overall A Great Book, one of favourite by far.
Nov 04, 2016 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
Thamasha Perera
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good little read, well-written; Laird has a way of drawing you in to empathise deeply with the characters, and I found myself welling up at several points throughout the story. Thoroughly enjoyable!
Sheryln Tan
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book here used to be my literature book! Recommended for ages 13-14👼
Rohan Ganglani
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is a very interesting book and puts you in the shoes of a street boy in Africa who is sold as a slave but then escapes and a young talented writer whose father doesn't see full potential of.
Joel Wong
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
A little scanty on the details... Could have fleshed it out more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was very moving and I love the way it ended, how they went through all that hardship and it was worth it because they were happy in the end.
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 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 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
Sadaf Hussain
Jun 02, 2016 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 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 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, unabl
Dec 17, 2011 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'
Aug 13, 2016 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
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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