A Rat's Tale
by Tor Seidler
This is yet another talking-rat story, beautifully illustrated by Fred Marcellino. Its hero is Montague Mad-Rat the Younger, a shy young rat who paints sea-shells as a hobby, and collects feathers and berries which his eccentric mother uses to make multi-colored headdresses. His family also includes a father who makes mud-castles, an uncle who decorates rings, and an aunt who takes Caribbean cruises almost constantly.
It's only when he meets, by chance, Isabella Moberly-Rat, a pretty young wharf-rat of the upper crust, that he realizes the shame that rat society connects with rats who work with their paws. Montague tries to escape from this stigma by helping to collect extra money to pay "rat rent" on the New York wharfs (whose rat inhabitants make a practice of bribing the owners not to poison them, by filling a rain-barrel with hard cash once a year). Little does he know that his family shame will turn out to be salvation for all the rats in Manhattan, and will win him the heart of dear little Izzy.
It's an adventure, filled with interesting characters and multiple levels of conflict--guilt, sorrow, loneliness, shame, greed, heroism, despair, romance, and several very moving moments. The real turning point of the story is when Montague's father takes one brief break from building castles. This would make a delightful animated film, I think. As it is, it has lots of cute little puns on the word "rat" and a fairly rich depiction of rat family, society, and individual characters. And heck, I'm a sucker for talking rodents.
Recommended Age: 10+
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