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Friday, June 21, 2013

Books - The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

In books, television, and movies, rats tend to be portrayed as evil sinister characters, which is a far cry from their real-life personalities. It is nice to call attention to those works that think outside the box and offer a positive portrayal of these wonderfully personable and intelligent animals.
Today, I would like to recommend a young adult fantasy novel, winner of the Carnegie Medal, from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series: The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. Despite being part of a series, this book stands alone and requires no prior knowledge of the Discworld universe.
This novel is a delightful but dark play on the Pied Piper fairy tale, centering around a group of rats who developed intelligence and self-awareness when they ate from the garbage bins at a wizard university. They are led by Maurice, a cat, who became enlightened when he unknowingly ate of an affected rat - an act which haunts him throughout the novel.
Maurice invents a Pied-Piper scam with the help of the rats and a "stupid-looking kid" (piper), to defraud unwitting town governments of money by faking a rat plague. The rats are not convinced they are doing the right thing, but agree to help Maurice one last time. Unfortunately, deep down beneath this one last simple looking town, a terrible evil lurks . . . .
This novel is witty and entertaining and suspenseful and it brings to life an entire cast of rats - each with their own unique and memorable personality, and each one endearing in his or her own way. Whether the rat loves the old (wild) ways or is enchanted by new enlightenment, they are all treated with respect and integrity and love by the author. This book can be enjoyed by young and old alike - I read this book aloud to my boys (10 and 12), and they both enjoyed it as much as I did.
If you are not a book person, BBC Radio developed a radio play dramatization, featuring the voice talent of David Tennant (Dr. Who's 10th Doctor) as the wise but nearly blind rat, Dangerous Beans. I could not find this play available for purchase, but you can listen to it in 6 parts on YouTube.

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