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I Was a Rat! Paperback – February 12, 2002


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling; Reprint edition (February 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440416612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440416616
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Bless my soul!" said Bob. "Who are you?"
"I was a rat," said the little boy.
When a grubby young pageboy knocks on the door of Bob the cobbler and Joan the washerwoman's house, the kindly couple hardly knows what to think. Could this delusional boy be the answer to their prayers for a little one of their own? And was he really once a rat? It seems so. He shreds his bedding, for example, and he chews his toast swiftly with his front teeth. He eats an entire pencil and bites his teacher. Despite the fact that he is a little ratty in his habits, the old couple grow quite fond of the young fellow.

In time, the word spreads that there's a rat-boy in town, news that intrigues everyone from the Royal Philosopher to the P.T. Barnum-inspired freak-peddler Oliver Tapscrew to a reporter from the local rag The Daily Scourge. As the harmless, well-meaning boy is transformed into "The Monster of the Sewers" through pure sensationalism and mass hysteria, Philip Pullman playfully satirizes the power of the press and society at large.

What does it mean to be human? In this often darkly comic Dickensian tale, rats start to look pretty good by comparison. But in a fairy-tale ending, Bob and Joan teach us that humans, corrupt as we are, can always take solace in toasted cheese, love, and good craftsmanship. Kevin Hawkes's black-and-white illustrations enliven the already vivacious adventure that, thanks to Pullman's ever lovely wordplay and sly satire, is every bit as enjoyable for adults as it is for young readers. (Ages 9 to 12) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The latest offering from Pullman (The Golden Compass; Count Karlstein) is a witty romp with fairy-tale roots. "I was a rat!" claims the boy in a tattered page's uniform who appears at the door of a kindly shoemaker and his washerwoman wife. Bob and Joan take in the boy, teach him table manners, name him Roger and do their best to provide for him. But this wouldn't be satire if the makeshift family were simply to live happily ever after--and so begins a series of misadventures in which Roger (wildly unworldly and more than a little "ratty in his habits") is kicked out of school, appears as an exhibit in a traveling freak show, falls in with a Dickensian band of young burglars and ends up imprisoned and condemned to death as the so-called "Monster of the Sewers." Providing a hilariously overblown (but ultimately chilling) commentary on the doings of Roger and others are excerpts from the Daily Scourge, an utterly shameless tabloid. The author brings about the de rigueur happy ending when Roger's life is spared, thanks both to Bob and Joan's steadfastness and the intervention of a certain newly wed princess, whose cameo appearance reveals the truth about Roger's origins (astute readers will pick up on the early clues). Pullman provides poignant insight into a well-known fairy tale and insinuates its implications for today's readers. Ages 8-10.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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I think anybody who reads this book is sure to love it.
montessori student
I Was a Rat, by Philip Pullman seems like a very weird story.
Devan
Hilariously funny and mockingly accurate, a super read!
carolyn dauncey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Jane D. Fryman on March 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I just completed a one afternoon read of "I Was a Rat." Couldn't put it down. I had the same experience with the Harry Potter books.
Philip Pullman is a master of satire, adventure, and mystery. This sequel to Perrault's Cinderella story is as much an adult book as an intermediate grade-school book as listed. Some call it Dickensian because of the many twisted misadventures the amnesiac hero experience as he stumbles through the streets of English society. It's fun to gradually recognize the familiar "Cinderella" story unravel as the answer to the puzzle of rat-boy's origin. After the Princess solves the mystery, confesses her doubts about her life with the Prince, and proves to be kind to those in need, I saw a similarity to the life of Princess Diana. See if you feel the same.
A moral lesson or two or three can be explored and embraced if your experiences and psycho/social needs warrant them. Can we believe what we see and hear? Should we trust our
own perceptions or those of the press and politicians? Is inclusion a safe policy? Shouldn't those 'out of the norm' be put away for the safety of all? What about old habits and innate genetic predispositions? Can an individual given love and patient guidance choose to overcome antisocial behaviors? Should we follow our hearts? - after all, Cinderella (now that we know what really happened) and Princess Diana did and look what happened to them.
Most of all, of course, it's unique, fast moving and fun. A great book to read to kids from 7 to 107.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mix together the Untold Secrets of the Cinderella story, alittle Dickens, some satire of the tabloids, a jab or two at the royalfamily, and a little boy who tries to be good although he is, admittedly, a bit ratty in his habits, and you get a book that's new and funny and charming.
For adults, much of the fun comes from figuring out early on that the boy who arrives on the doorstep of Bob (cobbler) and Joan (washerwoman) is Cinderella's rat-footman who was busy playing soccer in the castle when the coach and horses went back to being a pumpkin and some mice. For children (mine at least), the book transfixes even if (in the case of my youngest) the secret of Roger's rattiness remains a mystery. And Roger's rattiness itself delights: he likes to gnaw and nibble -- bits of leather, tassels, bell-ropes. The way he looks at these chewables makes my mouth water. I'm glad that at the end of the book he's still a bit of a nibbler -- although much improved, as Bob is proud to point out.
These are good reasons to run out and get this book; but they're not the only reasons or even the best. *I Was a Rat* has a depth that many excellent books lack. It's a book about growing up, about moving away from instinctual ratty behavior to being a good child. And it's hard to be a good child. Grown-ups are a strange breed who impose strange rules; they punish children for curious reasons. O.K., you may not have eaten your teacher's pencils, but what about the paints that you innocently spilled all over the rug? This book is about growing up and about how it's a hard journey that's never entirely completed. As Mary Jane (Princess Aurelia to us) points out at the end, even wishes coming true can complicate matters.
*I Was a Rat*, however, leaves us cozy and warm.
Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on July 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book was a little weird but a great read. I read it from cover to cover while at the "town pool." The story will grab you in the beginning and let you go at the end. Don't pass on this one.......
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By barbedwire@cards21.freeserve.co.uk on October 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When my mum first suggested i read it in turned up my nose, my mum doesn't exactly have the same taste in books as me... But this looked..different. I am still searching for a book that can beat The Harry Potter series however this one is in a league of it's own. I read it cover to cover in an hour and when i was finished i wanted more...It is a great story..hints of weirdness and fantasy tales, including cinderella. READ IT!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is about a boy named Roger who claims he is a rat. When a couple named Bob and Joan find him at their door, they don't know what to do. Could he really have been a rat? He certainly does have some rat-like habits. He shreds his bedding and bites his teacher. He goes into the sewer when he has to escape. When he finally gets captured, he is brought to trial to decide if he should be exterminated. Will he survive this adventure?

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good funny book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anne G. Williams on July 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The story of the rat who was changed into a boy to go with Cinderella's coach. He got to playing with the other Palace page boys and never made it back to the coach, so he has remained a boy. But he still acts like a rat at times.
The newpaper hype blows the whole issue of a rat/boy into a media frenzy before the story ends.
Fun reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A cute little satire on the power of the press, how easily people can be led to believe the untrue, and the exclusion or inclusion of the weird and different. It also hints, for the eagle-eyed reader, at a very famous fairy-tale and a small detail that never gets handled....
"I was a rat." Or so says the lead character of this little illustrated novel. A little boy in a page uniform turns up on the doorstep of cobbler Bob and his wife Joan -- he can't give any kind of self-identification, except claiming that he was a rat. (Meanwhile, in little newspaper snippets we hear that the prince is getting married). The little boy, now named Roger, displays some ratlike tendencies like chewing through pencils and ripping up pillows. Despite this, he is also sweet-natured and eager to please.
But things go awry when the Royal Philosopher wants to study Roger -- and the boy escapes. He bumps into a juvenile gang, a freak-show, and is finally labelled a ratlike monster by the press and high-up officials. Who can help him now?
This is a cute story, pretty sparsely written and with a straightforward dang-he's-one-step-ahead-of-us plotline. There are a few plot holes, and some of the explanations feel a little odd and forced, though they do fit. And of course, there are the overblown bits of tabloid -- great fun.
Roger is a thoroughly sympathetic character, whom you are able to relate to despite the fact that he is so easily led, and thinks he's a rat. Equally, but differently, relatable are Joan and Bob, and Princess Aurelia. The other characters are more stereotyped in a pleasant sort of way, such as the gang of boys, the circus owner, and the various officials who crack down on Roger.
Overall, a cute and fun read. Definitely worth it.
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