I Was a Rat!

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I Was a Rat!
Genre(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
February 22, 2000
ISBN
0440416612
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“I Was a Rat!” So insists a scruffy boy named Roger. Maybe it’s true. But what is he now? A terrifying monster running wild in the sewers? The Daily Scourge is sure of it. A victim of “Rodent Delusion”? The hospital nurse says yes. A lucrative fairground freak? He is to Mr. Tapscrew. A champion wriggler and a budding thief? That’s what Billy thinks. Or just an ordinary small boy, though a little ratty in his habits? Only three people believe this version of the story. And it may take a royal intervention—and a bit of magic—to convince the rest of the world.

Set against the backdrop of a Royal Wedding—and a playful parody of the press, I Was a Rat! is a magical weaving of humor, fairy tale, and adventure.

User reviews

2 reviews
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
4.5(2)
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
4.0(1)
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'Rat' Pack o' Themes
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
4.0
Oooooh child! I’m always impressed when an author can take a child’s book and deliver some pretty adult/complicated themes in a way that kids (and most older readers, too, until they stop and take a minute to think about it) don’t even notice it.

Philip Pullman’s "I Was a Rat" is the perfect example of this. Pullman throws at us a multitude of complex themes including: child abandonment, the need of family, freedom of speech, the First Amendment, political corruption, socio-economic class, celebrity obsession, public sanitation and conundrums on how to digest ropes and leather. Whew! And that doesn’t even cover every subject brought up in this bad boy.

I Was a Rat follows Roger as he happens on the doorstep of a lovely elderly couple claiming, “I was a rat!” The book unfolds as Roger and his new family scurry along trying to discover where he came from and if he really was, in fact, a rat. Roger is convinced that he was, which explains why he flicks around eating the most disturbing things (I’m taking you back to that ropes and leather comment above).

Roger’s insanely endearing naivety not only makes you protective over him as some nasty characters try to take advantage of him, it also delivers those complicated messages in an innocent way. This is the perfect delivery for young readers who are just dipping their foot into the pond of complicated themes they will experience in more detail as they grow as readers. It’s also a refreshing look at problems that us grown kids can get bogged down in. The best message (cliché alert; I’m not sorry) is that ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether or not Roger was born as a four-legged sewer inhabitant, what truly makes us a rat is how we treat each other.
Good Points
A great introduction for kids into some complicated themes.
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Excellent fairy tale twist
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
0.0
Reader reviewed by mlecompt

One day Joan and Bob answer a knock at their door to find a boy in a uniform who claims he was a rat. They take him in and name him Roger, but Roger has trouble fitting in anywhere because he doesn't understand many words and social conventions. Eventually, he ends up living in the sewers and is branded a monster by the press.

This is a very clever story that branches out from the Cinderella fairy tale and wonders what would happen if one of her rat coachmen remained human. Some of Roger's adventures are funny, as are the newspaper pages that are sprinkled throughout the book. The main idea of the book, however, is that people are afraid of what they don't understand and the reader watches as this boy is made into a drooling, scabby, horrendous monster by the media and government. Very interesting ideas are behind this simple tale of a boy who was a rat.
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