I Was a Rat!
by Philip Pullman
Published by U.S. edition: Knopf, 2000
Ages 7 - 12
When a small boy comes to the home of Bob and Joan, a childless couple, asking for help, they gladly take him in. Strangely, the boy can say nothing about who he is or where he comes from except "I was a rat." And sure enough, readers will understand immediately that he was indeed a rat: he was one of the page boys serving Cinderella on the evening she went to the ball who missed the coach at midnight and was stuck in his new human form. But Bob and Joan don't know that, of course, and so they make the rounds with Roger, as they call him, taking him to various social service agencies, all of whom meet him with indifference. As word gets out through the tabloid press about the mysterious Ratboy, however, interest in him increases until it reaches mass hysteria. An extremely funny short novel functions brilliantly on two levels by including frequent tabloid accounts of the action. Young readers will enjoy the folkloric twists and slapstick humor of Roger's escapades while older readers will be amused by Pullman's piercing social satire, largely seen through the front-page news of The Daily Scourge, a tabloid that reports not only on the Ratboy but on the strikingly familiar doings of the Royal Couple. The dual-level nature of the story makes this a great choice for a family read-aloud. CCBC categories: Fiction for Children; New Editions of Old Favorites; Folklore, Mythology, and Traditional Literature. (KTH; April 10) ©2000 Cooperative Children's Book Center