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I Was A Rat    by Philip Pullman & Kevin Hawkes order for
I Was A Rat
by Philip Pullman
Order:  USA  Can
Yearling, 2002 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Ever wonder what happened to the creatures transformed into Cinderella's footmen and page? I always assumed they went back to their original forms at midnight. Not so, says Mr. Pullman. One little fellow was having too much fun sliding down bannisters with the other palace page boys and missed the coach. When he finally wended his way to the house of childless couple Bob and Joan (a cobbler and washerwoman) all he could say in response to their questions is 'I was a rat.'

They name him Roger for the son they never had and, of course, he stumbles through a series of misadventures, while nibbling on pencils and tassels. There is a Candide-like quality of innocence and ignorance to this rat-boy, who trusts a little too easily. He gets into trouble at school, with the Philosopher Royal and his cat Bluebottle, in a freak show, and with a gang of thieves. When he tries to go back to being a rat, people fear the 'Monster of the Sewers' and it seems that Roger might end up being 'Sterminated'.

I Was A Rat is a delightful take-off on the fairytale, interspersed with hilarious articles from 'The Daily Scourge'. Their satiric spin on the media will be appreciated by young and old ... 'As for the rise in juvenile crime, it's easy. The kids are doing it, aren't they? Then there's no need to look any further. BLAME THE KIDS!!!' And what about Cinderella, who used to be Mary Jane and is now the lovely Princess Aurelia? She and her Ratty finally meet again and commiserate about their fates, which aren't quite as anticipated. As Mary Jane concludes 'See, I don't think it's what you are that matters. I think it's what you do.'

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