- Grade Level: 3 - 4
- Series: The Iona and Peter Opie Library of Children's Literature
- Hardcover: 72 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 16, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195081145
- ISBN-13: 978-0195081145
- Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.5 x 10.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,623,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Adventures of the Rat Family (The Iona and Peter Opie Library of Children's Literature) Hardcover – December 16, 1993
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From School Library Journal
Grade 10 Up-This is the first English translation of Verne's "fairy tale" about a family of rats and their trials on the ladder of life. They begin as a family of oysters but keep evolving, with the help of the good fairy Firmenta, up the chain of evolution until all but one of them are finally humans. The plot moves from one locale to another, with the rats always being rescued from disaster in the nick of time. There is no tension, and the characters remain two dimensional throughout. The humor is too dependent on readers having a pretty good grasp of French. The illustrations fit the story, although they are done in drab colors. Given the didactic tone and the story's difficult subject of transmigration, it is doubtful that there is a child anywhere who will finish reading this book. The afterword is thoughtful and most enlightening, but since few children bother to read anything but the text of a story, this title will be most appropriate in, and probably a valuable addition to, a scholarly historical collection of children's literature rather than a modern fiction collection.
Patricia A. Dollisch, DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, GA
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
The first English translation of a story in which a rat family makes its way up the evolutionary (and social) ladder from oyster to human--through ``transmigrations of souls''--under the auspices of good fairy Firmenta (i.e., the heavens) and villain Gardafour (``guard the furnace'': hellfire). Of most interest here is an afterword by Verne expert Brian Taves, explaining many such puns (which will elude English-speaking readers) and setting the story in the context of Verne's oeuvre and the evolution controversy. The original illustrations, realistically depicting rats and the humans they ultimately become, are well executed but in no way arresting. As a period piece, the story has some interest; but though the dialogue is lively, the plot is merely a vehicle for what to a 20th-century eye looks like a feeble exploration of ideas; in 100 years, the evolution controversy itself has evolved, while Verne's societal parallel is just too dated to engage. A curiosity, of scholarly interest only. In the Iona and Peter Opie Library of Children's Literature series, with an introduction by Iona Opie. (Fiction. 10+) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Adventures of the Rat Family was not published in book form until after Verne's death, with the
appearance of the 1910 anthology Yesterday and Tomorrow, containing only a few of the engravings and a text revised by Verne's son, Michel, his literary executor. The Oxford edition is
the first time that Adventures has been published in book form in any language with all of the original illustrations.
As Adventures of the Rat Family attests, Verne's writing is far more diverse than his reputation as the father of science fiction suggests. He wrote more than 60 novels, as well as numerous short stories, plays, articles and poems, covering a range of genres and literary forms. He was actually most prolific in the genres of adventure, mystery and comedy.
Adventures of the Rat Family deals with evolution, a problematic and controversial idea when the story first appeared in 1891, and one that was surely prohibitive for American publishers. This was especially true since Adventures of the Rat Family was also one of Verne's few stories accessible to a very young audience. However, like many fairy tales, its larger significance requires more sophisticated adult reading.
Verne portrays a magical movement up and down the evolutionary ladder, as a close-knit family of rats is transformed into various lower forms of life, from mollusks to birds. The instigator of these deeds is a genie, hired by a cruel prince who desires the family's daughter, although she loves another.
Verne both recognizes and mocks the idea of evolution by having his characters change from one species to another, finally making a metamorphosis into men and women. Added amusement is
provided by one cousin who never quite catches up as he makes each transformation, always retaining a feature of his previous incarnation, until finally he has a donkey's tail even after
becoming a man.
Verne had long been interested in evolution and basically accepted the theory. His 1858 play, M. de Chimpanze (untranslated), is of a chimp that readily adapts to high society, and a giant prehistoric man is sighted in Journey to the Center of the Earth. Verne portrays a "missing link" species in his 1901 novel, The Aerial Village, and speculates that the tribe will be incorporated into an imperial colony. "The Humbug" is the story of a P.T. Barnum-like character whose successful hoax convinces New Yorkers that he has unearthed the bones of early man near Albany.
By cloaking his use of the evolutionary theme within the fantasy of Adventures of the Rat Family, Verne hoped to circumvent disapproval of his more serious and controversial subtext. He had first related the story during a European lecture tour in 1887, and he was so delighted with the idea that he enlarged it into a novella. He cleverly imbued it with his satirical expertise, lending it a light touch that concealed much of its bite. Verne was skilled in comedy, especially when it involved bizarre characters in unusual locales, as demonstrated by his treatment of the stuffy British travelers in Around the World in 80 Days.
Adventures of the Rat Family is a rewarding, one-of-a-kind story that will be enjoyed in different ways by all ages.