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I Was a Rat! Paperback – February 12, 2002
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"Bless my soul!" said Bob. "Who are you?"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.
"I was a rat," said the little boy.
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 an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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. Roger is with Bob and Joan, who have learned what it is to be parents. They sit around the hearth as a family and the world, "a difficult place", is outside, but they have "toasted cheese and love." Who could ask for more?
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good funny book.
The newpaper hype blows the whole issue of a rat/boy into a media frenzy before the story ends.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautifully crafted, great plot, characters, pacing, etc. Highly recommend.
"I Was A Rat!"
Written by Phillip Pullman
(Doubleday/Random House, 1999)...Read more