Book review

I was a Rat by Philip Pullman (1999)

Here's a strange little book. It's a bit like one of those puzzle books where you have to spot the clues on every page to work out the answer. It's actually a bit of a romp through every fairy tale you ever read (exaggeration), and other stuff too, including real life. What you do is read through it, saying to yourself on every other page: Ah! That's The Elves and the Shoemaker, that's Cinderella, that's Oliver Twist, and that's the lovely Diana, Princess of Wales etc. (Just to start you off).

The story opens with the childless old shoemaker and his wife sitting by the fireside late one evening when they hear a knock at the door. On the doorstep is a bedraggled little boy in torn and tattered page's uniform, and all he can say is 'I was a rat'. Take it from there if you are interested ...

It is quite good for a laugh though. This boy was a rat. He eats anything!

'H'mm,' said Bob. 'You bring him back here this evening, and don't hurt him. I don't know what legal responsibility we got, but he come to us and knocked, and that's enough for me. And he's a lovely little feller, for all his chewing. You look after him proper.'
'No question about that,' said the Philosopher Royal.
Roger had finished off all the tassels except one. Bob sighed and snapped off the last one and dropped it into the little boy's hand.
'I dunno how you digest some of this, I really don't,' he said.

Is there anything for the thoughtful reader? Yes, of course. This is Philip Pullman. However Roger came to be a boy, and whether he likes it or not, he's stuck with it. So he'll have to make the best of it!

What can I read next?

I seem to have come across a lot of rats recently. This book also reminds me of this one by Robert C O'Brien:

And this one by Alan Temperley:

Otherwise, if you enjoy Philip Pullman's short books, you might be interested to look at this one:

And there is this one, of course, about transformation. Greg turns into a caterpillar, not a rat:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

I was a Rat features in these lists: