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The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents    by Terry Pratchett order for
Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
by Terry Pratchett
Order:  USA  Can
HarperTrophy, 2003 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Maurice is a cat, a Macavity-style feline, who runs a travelling Pied Piper scam. The piper in question is 'a stupid-looking kid', who experiences a moral dilemma at the beginning of this antic adventure. Maurice is more than a match for his misgivings, emphasizing that 'It is gov-ern-ment money, kid', which otherwise would be misused to pay soldiers and start wars.

Wonder how Maurice got so amazing? It all started with rats who lived in a wizards' rubbish heap, and ingested 'old worn-out spell books and the stubs of dribbly candles and the remains of the green bubbly stuff in the cauldrons', magic scraps that caused instantaneous sentience. Maurice simply ingested a smart rat. Now he associates with them - Peaches, Dangerous Beans (almost blind but incredibly clever), Dark Tan, Hamnpork and all the other 'Changeling' rats, who talk and have too strong a sense of morality for Maurice's comfort. He negotiates one last job from them, and they head into a remote town to do their usual number.

But, as Robbie Burns said 'The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley' (substitute cat, rats and boy for mice and men). It's an odd town, with thin and hungry townsfolk, and fat rat catchers who are running their own scam. And that's not all - in tunnels underneath everyone's feet lurks a vengeful monster out of myth, a 'king rat' with the power to control minds. It begins to look like this venture will be the end of Maurice and his merry rodents. Luckily, they meet a very well-read, red-headed, long-nosed girl with an overdeveloped sense of drama, named Malicia. This descendant of the Sisters Grimm lives her life by the books.

As usual, Terry Pratchett gives us tongue and cheek adventure, with some hilarious episodes along the way. A trap disposal action scene is straight out of a World War I bomb disposal sequence. I love the rats' use of 'Mr. Clicky' (a cat toy) as a scout-ahead robot. There's philosophy from Malicia - 'If you don't turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else's story' - and Sardines' who advises his new leader to 'think of the future as a great big trap ... With no cheese'. And there's small, weak Dangerous Beans' inspiring rebuttal of the wannabe tyrant, 'You have plans for rats? Well, I have dreams for them.'

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents is truly amazing, fully deserving of the 2001 Carnegie Medal, and with a hilarious ending that only the author of Discworld could have written. If you haven't read it yet, rush out and grab a copy!

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