Thursday, February 07, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

February 7 begins the Year of the Rat! In honour of this, here is a book list of ratty-themed reading for the year.

A school-age favourite of mine, this tale of Mrs. Frisby and her family of mice fascinated me. Mrs. Frisby, a meek field mouse, meets with a group of super intelligent rats while trying to get medicine for her sick son Timothy. They help her only because her deceased husband was one of the mice in the labs of NIMH who escaped with the rats; they had been experimented on to increase their intelligence and it worked so well, they intelligently escaped. The rats are now planning on moving further away from civilization to escape their dependence on humankind, and Mrs. Frisby is able to help them in return with information on the impending arrival of exterminators. A strange but charming book.

2. The Wind in the Willows / Kenneth Grahame
In the 100th year since publication, how can I neglect the wonderful character of Ratty, who thinks that there is "nothing, simply nothing as wonderful as messing about in boats".

Who is the Amazing Maurice? Why, he's a cat, a conman of a cat who travels the countryside with his magically intelligent band of rodents and a rather dimwitted, flute-playing boy. They travel to small towns off the beaten track and make quite a living ridding these towns of their rat infestations. This time, however, Peaches and Dangerous Beans (names chosen before the rats really understood the labels on the cans they were reading) are beginning to have reservations as to the morality of their scam... Perfectly Pratchett.

Yes, that Phillip Pullman. This is a charming middle school novel about one of certain group of rats, turned into a page boy and then stuck in boy form. He finds his way to the doorstep of Bob & Joan, cobbler and washerwoman, and after much getting lost and being found, and pitfalls along the way he learns the joys of being a human boy. Also features a marvellous Princess (formerly Mary Jane the kitchen girl), and lots of interspersed tabloid pages featuring the scandal of the "Rat Boy". A wonderful story.

Definitely adult reading, this one takes on the autobiography of a preternaturally intelligent rat, who lives in a used bookshop and reads (and eats) books incessantly. Told in the first person (or first rat's?) voice his sad and indigent existence is full of winks at the bibliophile reader. My only warning is that the accompanying art is not really very good. In fact it's pretty awful.


  1. Ooh, ratty books! I like and know all these except two. The Amazing Maurice I never heard of, and Firmin is on my TBR. Sorry to hear about the art, hope that doesn't spoil the experience for me! (I love books with good art).

  2. Great little list! Happy Chinese New Year!

  3. I actually have a nonfiction title to recommend: Robert Sullivan's Rats : Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants (New York : Bloomsbury, 2004, 242 pages.) The author decided to spend a year observing rats in one New York alleyway and write about it. His writing is beautiful and his insights are charming. (Naturally, there's a book note!)

  4. I tried and tries to come up with something to add, but the only thing I could come up with was "Mice At Center Ice" by Estelle Salata (the opponents were the Rink Rats). I'm sure your picks are much better.

  5. LOL! What fun! I love this themed list. The Rats of Nimh is one of those movies that I love, but for whatever reason I've never read the book. I need to remedy that!

  6. What a clever way to commemorate the day! I personally am very fond of Wind and the Willows although more for Mole's sake sometimes than Ratty's.

  7. Happy Chinese New Year! What a great list. I loved Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, too. Maybe I'll read it again!

  8. Firmin is a fun book. I read it last year (or was it the year before?) and enjoyed it very much. What a fun list you've made!

  9. Oh, and as a ratty new puppy has a pet rat (blue, stuffed) that I named Templeton for the rat from Charlotte's Web! Yay for literary references.

  10. Jeane - guess I shouldn't be too rude about the art, as I couldn't do much better...the story is good!

    jns - I was thinking of including that one! Thanks for the link.

    John - 'Mice at Centre Ice' is good, too. :)

    Andi - I was thinking about Templeton; thanks for the reminder. Hope your puppy likes his blue rat!

    Jill - I think Mole is my favourite, though I do like Ratty, too. I don't like Toad!

    Heather, Gentle Reader, Stefanie - I'm glad you've enjoyed the list; I enjoy making them. Last year's was a bit easier, as there are many more pig stories than rat ones.

  11. Oh, yay! I've been wanting to read The Amazing Maurice and Firmin. This will urge me on.

    Thanks for the recommendations.


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