The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
|The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
|Category: Confident Readers
|Reviewer: Karen Inskip-Hayward
|Summary: A delightful book with plenty of humour for the emerging reader.
|Date: April 2004
|Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Amongst the presents I received on Christmas Day was this little beauty – The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett. What a great title for a game of charades!
I have been really getting into Pratchett in the past year or so and had been looking forward to this one, because I'm a big fan of rats! I have kept rats on and off since 1989. We currently have three – two white ones (Sabrina and Salem) and a black and white one (Hattie). So this subject matter is perfect.
Pratchett is a wonderful author, a classic storyteller in the old tradition. Of course, you get well-developed characters and bucketloads of humour, but the story is always central. This is especially true with this book which – being primarily aimed at children – is sharper than some of his other novels, it's less waffly, more concentrated and yes, physically shorter at 270 pages.
I love my books, whether they're brand-new, second hand or many hands. I like smelly old battered tainted stained wrinkled books or shiny pristine stiff-backed sparkling new ones. This one is new and probably the best 'presented' book I have seen for a long time.
Every detail seems to have been covered. The jacket is slippery and shiny, dark with a splash of bronze on the front which shows an intelligent-looking but crafty feline above a bunch of rodents. The most noticeable part of the picture must be the eyes, green cat eyes, piercing, alive. Then you suddenly realise that one of the rats has a hat on and you just know it's going to have all the trademarks of a Pratchett classic.
The back cover has a rat drawing on it and a pencil (the relevance of which becomes clear in the story), but the texture of this is strange. While the jacket itself is a dull slipperiness, the picture feels different, as if it were 3D and you could pick up the pencil and draw some whiskers on.
Inside, the novel is just as carefully crafted. We have little silhouetted cat faces at the top of the pages, whiskery rats at the bottom.
Each chapter begins with an extract from a book called Mr. Bunnsy Has An Adventure and this is another clever little device – we follow the Mr. Bunnsy story through the snippets at the start of each chapter and it can be seen as just that – a story. But it also relates to what the rats in the Maurice story are experiencing too.
This is one of those stories you can analyse for hours. I can just picture a load of university students sat around a few empty bottles, debating the parodies and metaphors they found here. How the 'message' is that anything can be achieved if you all work together and pull in the same direction.
Yes, that's all here too, but basically, it's a jolly good romp through traditional storytelling skills with more than a sprinkling of modern-day humour. It is based on the legend of the Pied Piper, but with a twist. Thanks to scavenging from a load of rubbish discarded by wizards, one cat and a whole scrapheap of rats become Changed. With a capital C. They can think, talk, reason, debate – and one of them can even do a rather impressive one-rat song and dance act!
Maurice is the cat and not being the same as non-changed cats, he doesn't eat rats. Well, there was that one time when … But he's altered now. Oh yes. He ALWAYS asks them if they can talk, before taking his first nibble.
You see, the rats are part of his great moneymaking scheme. The rats move into a town and make a nuisance of themselves – which usually involves lots of widdling! Then a stupid looking boy (He's called Keith) turns up with his cat (Maurice) and offers to play his pipe to rid the town of the rats. Keith plays, the rats leave, the town pays up and everyone is happy.
But Bad Blintz is different. This looks like it could be make or break time. The town is poor, bread is rationed and the only people who seem to be doing well are the evil pair of rat catchers.
With the help and/or hindrance of the mayor's daughter, Malicia, Keith, Maurice and the educated rodents try to solve the mystery of the disappearing food. Not to mention the apparent absence of 'keekees' (non-changed rats). Oh and a strange powerful voice in the cellars…
This book is probably aimed at children aged eight or over. There are a lot of clever bits that might go over the heads of the youngest readers, plus a few deaths and some violence. But they'll love it – just as I did. Because yep, it's also a book adults will love too and one that you won't have to hide in a brown paper bag in public. Hold your head up high! Like J.K. Rowling, Pratchett is another author that adults should be proud to read.
Just to whet your appetite, here are a couple of my favourite quotes…
At last! said Malicia, shaking the ropes off. Somehow I thought rats would gnaw quicker. They used a knife, said Keith.
… when I woke up there was a rat dancing on my dressing-table. Tapitty, tapitty, tap.
That's odd, said Sergeant Doppelpunkt, giving his corporal a strange look.
And it was humming 'There's no Business like Show Business'. I call that more than just 'odd'!
No, I mean it's odd you've got a dressing-table. I mean, you're not even married.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett at Amazon.com.
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