This charming little book is a funny, moving and extremely entertaining tale that only confirms what a great storyteller Philip Pullman is.
It’s the picaresque adventure of how a little boy in a page uniform, who knows little about the human world - but a lot about cheese - knocks one day at the door of a cute old couple, Bob and Joan, and candidly declares “I was a rat!”.
Bob and Joan, seeing he is alone in the world and nobody’s looking for him, take him under their roof, give him a name - Roger - and try to teach him how to be a proper boy. Not an easy feat though, because little Roger has no clue of what a boy does or doesn’t do. But he understands the basics rules of life (at least of a rat’s life): eat when hungry, gnaw anything in sight range, run away when beaten up or when confronted with cats.
His naïve approach to the world inevitably starts a series of unfortunate events that catch him completely unaware, and that leads him away from the loving care of Bob and Joan and right into the hands of scrupleless shifty characters who are only looking to use him.
I found his encounter with the philosopher royal, who wants to study him to become famous, especially funny and clever. Here's a little taste:
“Now Roger” – he began – “why are you wearing a page-boy’s uniform?”
“I dunno. I expect I forgot but I’m not sure. If I could remember whether I forgot it I’d know if I had, but I probably forgot without remembering it”
The Philosopher Royal was used to problems of epistemology, so he made sense of that with no trouble at all.
In addition to Roger’s misfortunes, readers can enjoy and recognise the typical tabloid in the pages of The Daily Scourge, always looking for the screaming title, the big scandal or any story that could sell the most, and always ready to change opinion according to where the wind blows. These might be the funniest bits in the story. I love them!
Also, the general illustrations by Peter Bailey are adorable and made me care for poor Roger even more.
All in all “I was a Rat!” is a story good for everyone. It’s a satire of the press, of the royal family and of the whole English society, and it’s also a great story in a kind of old-fashion way. The kind that’s probably best read aloud at bed-time, one chapter at the time.
Thanks so much Ana, for this. Your present was spot on:)
Ps: The book uses a working class English, which I guess won’t help children to learn their grammar, but it would certainly make them laugh!
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