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Oh Rats! The Story of Rats and People Hardcover – August 17, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4-6–Rats and humans have had a very long love/hate relationship as readers discover in this lively and informative overview of the history and behavior of the widely encountered rodent. Emphasizing the animal's capabilities for survival, Marrin offers both anecdotal accounts of human/rat encounters and impressive statistics. Rats have occupied the Earth far longer than humans, and they compete prodigiously for the world's food supply, earning their reputation as major pests to humankind. On the other hand, they provide an important source of protein for the many humans who eat them worldwide. (Not a pleasing bit of information for readers who have loved them as pets.) The nine short chapters are set in a handsome slim book with striking black-and-white scratchboard illustrations and muted red framing on many pages. Marrin touches briefly on physical characteristics as he explains the veneration of rats in some cultures, attempts to eradicate them in others, and rats as both carriers of disease and valued subjects of medical research. It's a different sort of discussion and format for this well-known historian and biographer and one that he has clearly enjoyed, as will a wide variety of nonfiction readers and animal fans. There's a bibliography of adult sources and children's nonfiction as well as a listing of literary works featuring rats.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 3-5. Children fond of nonfiction that is laced with discomfiting--or downright revolting--information will happily fall upon this anecdotal look at the shared history of the animal kingdom's greatest survivors. Along with portraying rats in many roles, from pests to pets, Marrin (best known for his histories for older readers) introduces rodent relatives and provides glimpses of rats' habits and innate intelligence, as well as their history as disease carriers, lab animals, predators, and ("Grilled Rat, Bordeaux Style," anyone?) even entrees. Red highlights (including red eyes on the rats and red borders on some of the pages) add an ominous tone to Mordan's many naturalistic, deeply shadowed illustrations, which have the look of wood engravings. Although there are no source notes, Marrin closes with short lists of relevant fiction and nonfiction. Richard Conniff's Rats! The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (2002) offers sometimes-arresting photographs and more specific information, but this book makes a pleasantly icky additional purchase. John Peters
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 and up
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 960L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (August 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525477624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525477624
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 10.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Albert Marrin is an award winning author of over 40 books for young adults and young readers and four books of scholarship. These writings were motivated by the fact that as a teacher, first in a junior high school in New York City for nine years and then as professor of history and chairman of the history department at Yeshiva University until he retired to become a full time writer, his paramount interest has always been to make history come alive and accessible for young people.

Winner of the 2008 National Endowment for Humanities Medal for his work, which was presented at the White House, was given "for opening young minds to the glorious pageant of history. His books have made the lessons of the past come alive with rich detail and energy for a new generation."

Dr. Marrin's numerous other awards include the Washington Post Childrens'Book Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, the James Madison Award for Lifetime Achievement, several Horn Book awards by the Boston Globe, consistently appearing on the best book of the year lists of the American Library Association, frequent recognition by Book Lists, and the Western Heritage Award for best juvenile nonfiction book presented at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame among others.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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I used this book to teach a fifth grade unit on research-based writing.
Christine T
Then, when it came time to review this book, I found myself overwhelmed by the number of interesting facts I'd marked.
E. R. Bird
Beautifully illustrated; interesting facts that appeal to older children and adults!
Kathleen Hall Scanlon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I thought I knew a lot about rats. I did. After having read Robert Sullivan's book for adults, "Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants", I found myself under the distinct impression that Sullivan had told me everything about rats that there was to know. Imagine my shock then when, upon picking up Albert Marrin's, "Oh, Rats!: The Story of Rats and People", I discovered fact after fact after fact that I didn't know at all. Did you know that there was once a prehistoric rat that was seven feet long 17 million years ago? Or that a rat can collapse its skeleton so as to fit into tight places? Marrin doesn't just look at rats. He examines their bad and good (they have some) qualities in such a way that his book comes across as the foremost children's literature authority on the critters proper. Stir in C.B. Mordan's woodcut-like illustrations and you have yourself one heckuva book. One that will have even its adult readers alternately aghast and entranced.

Rats. You know 'em. You hate 'em. But no matter what your thoughts on these large rodentia, you've never seen them like this. In scintillating detail, Albert Marrin tracks the rat/human progress and how one species has helped or hurt (usually hurt) the other over the course of our evolution. From their ancestors to how they've killed us with plague, eaten our food, or been eaten by us (yum!) we see rats in every form and face. We view them as caring family members and fast breeders. Anything and everything a kid may ever want to know about rats is here, and its hard to look away from what Marrin is displaying before our eyes (no matter how much you may want to).

As to their intelligence, Marrin spares no detail.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By L. Peirce-Dougherty on October 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although the illustrations are quite nice, the text is extremely anecdotal and should not be taken seriously. Rat shows are not referred to as "Pageants for Pretty Rats" - that phrase is actually part of the title of a Wall Street Journal article discussing domestic rodents (not listed in the 'bibliography' BTW). The author also loosely refers to multiple species as 'rats' which is very confusing. Norway rats, black rats, Gambian rats, and kiore are all lumped together for most of the book, even though the animals are very different.

The author also missed many wonderful opportunities. For example, on page 20, he discusses rats as pests in the White House, and Teddy Roosevelt leading rat hunts in the dining room. However, a true scholar of rats would have known that Teddy Roosevelt and his children actually kept multiple pet rats, and a black and white hooded rat named 'Jonathan' was a particular favourite - in the White House dining room.

Not really approprite for kids who need to learn real information about rodents, not tall tales disgused as facts. But the illustrations will satisfy any adult rat-o-phile!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on October 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
C.B. Mordan's dark woodcuts are perfect to accompany OH RATS! THE STORY OF RATS AND PEOPLE. Here science, history and natural history blend to provide a spirited, lovely account of rats and their interactions with humans. Kids in grades 3-5 will find this fascinating reading.
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By Christine T on March 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I used this book to teach a fifth grade unit on research-based writing. The children found it intriguing and interesting. If Rodents don't make your skin crawl then this is a must read for nonfiction units!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book to use in a grades 3-8! Read this book aloud as your class takes notes on the pros and cons of rats. Students were excited to write about their position using facts from the book!
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By Nancy Shauer on November 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It was what I was looking for so i am very happy cuz book store had no idea what i wanted
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