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  • I Was a Rat!
  • Written by Philip Pullman
    Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780440416616
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  • I Was A Rat!
  • Written by Philip Pullman
  • Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780375801761
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I Was A Rat!

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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE & AWARDS PRAISE & AWARDS
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

“I Was a Rat!” So insists a scruffy boy named Roger. Maybe it’s true. But what is he now? A terrifying monster running wild in the sewers? The Daily Scourge is sure of it. A victim of “Rodent Delusion”? The hospital nurse says yes. A lucrative fairground freak? He is to Mr. Tapscrew. A champion wriggler and a budding thief? That’s what Billy thinks. Or just an ordinary small boy, though a little ratty in his habits? Only three people believe this version of the story. And it may take a royal intervention—and a bit of magic—to convince the rest of the world.

Set against the backdrop of a Royal Wedding—and a playful parody of the press, I Was a Rat! is a magical weaving of humor, fairy tale, and adventure.

Excerpt

I Was a Rat

Old Bob and his wife, Joan, lived by the market in the house where his father and grandfather and great-grandfather had lived before him, cobblers all of them, and cobbling was Bob's trade too. Joan was a washerwoman, like her mother and her grandmother and her great-grandmother, back as far as anyone could remember.

And if they'd had a son, he would have become a cobbler in his turn, and if they'd had a daughter, she would have learned the laundry trade, and so the world would have gone on. But they'd never had a child, whether boy or girl, and now they were getting old, and it seemed less and less likely that they ever would, much as they would have liked it.

One evening as old Joan wrote a letter to her niece and old Bob sat trimming the heels of a pair of tiny scarlet slippers he was making for the love of it, there came a knock at the door.

Bob looked up with a jump. "Was that someone knocking?" he said. "What's the time?"

The cuckoo clock answered him before Joan could: ten o'clock. As soon as it had finished cuckooing, there came another knock, louder than before.

Bob lit a candle and went through the dark cobbler's shop to unlock the front door.

Standing in the moonlight was a little boy in a page's uniform. It had once been smart, but it was sorely torn and stained, and the boy's face was scratched and grubby.

"Bless my soul!" said Bob. "Who are you?"

"I was a rat," said the little boy.

"What did you say?" said Joan, crowding in behind her husband.

"I was a rat," the little boy said again.

"You were a--go on with you! Where do you live?" she said. "What's your name?"

But the little boy could only say, "I was a rat."

The old couple took him into the kitchen because the night was cold, and sat him down by the fire. He looked at the flames as if he'd never seen anything like them before.

"What should we do?" whispered Bob.

"Feed the poor little soul," Joan whispered back. "Bread and milk, that's what my mother used to make for us."

So she put some milk in a pan to heat by the fire and broke some bread into a bowl, and old Bob tried to find out more about the boy.

"What's your name?" he said.

"Haven't got a name."

"Why, everyone's got a name! I'm Bob, and this is Joan, and that's who we are, see. You sure you haven't got a name?"

"I lost it. I forgot it. I was a rat," said the boy, as if that explained everything.

"Oh," said Bob. "You got a nice uniform on, anyway. I expect you're in service, are you?"

The boy looked at his tattered uniform, puzzled.

"Dunno," he said finally. "Dunno what that means. I expect I am, probably."

"In service," said Bob, "that means being someone's servant. Have a master or a mistress and run errands for 'em. Page boys, like you, they usually go along with the master or mistress in a coach, for instance."

"Ah," said the boy. "Yes, I done that, I was a good page boy, I done everything right."

"'Course you did," said Bob, shifting his chair along as Joan came to the table with the bowl of warm bread and milk.

She put it in front of the boy, and without a second's pause, he put his face right down into the bowl and began to guzzle it up directly, his dirty little hands gripping the edge of the table.

"What are you doing?" said Joan. "Dear oh dear! You don't eat like that. Use the spoon!"

The boy looked up, milk in his eyebrows, bread up his nose, his chin dripping.

"He doesn't know anything, poor little thing," said Joan. "Come to the sink, my love, and we'll wash you. Grubby hands and all. Look at you!"

The boy tried to look at himself, but he was reluctant to leave the bowl.

"That's nice," he said. "I like that..."

"It'll still be here when you come back," said Bob. "I've had my supper already, I'll look after it for you."

The boy looked wonder-struck at this idea. He watched over his shoulder as Joan led him to the kitchen sink and tipped in some water from the kettle, and while she was washing him, he kept twisting his wet face round to look from Bob to the bowl and back again.

"That's better," said Joan, rubbing him dry. "Now you be a good boy and eat with the spoon."

"Yes, I will," he said, nodding.

"I'm surprised they didn't teach you manners when you was a page boy," she said.

"I was a rat," he said.

"Oh, well, rats don't have manners. Boys do," she told him. "You say thank you when someone gives you something, see, that's good manners."

"Thank you," he said, nodding hard.

"That's a good boy. Now come and sit down."

So he sat down, and Bob showed him how to use the spoon. He found it hard at first, because he would keep turning it upside down before it reached his mouth, and a lot of the bread and milk ended up on his lap.

But Bob and Joan could see he was trying, and he was a quick learner. By the time he'd finished, he was quite good at it.

"Thank you," he said.

"That's it. Well done," said Bob. "Now you come along with me and I'll show you how to wash the bowl and the spoon." While they were doing that, Bob said, "D'you know how old you are?"

"Yes," said the boy. "I know that, all right. I'm three weeks old, I am."

"Three weeks?"

"Yes. And I got two brothers and two sisters the same age, three weeks."

"Five of you?"

"Yes. I ain't seen 'em for a long time."

"What's a long time?"

The boy thought, and said, "Days."

"And where's your mother and father?"

"Under the ground."

Bob and Joan looked at each other, and they could each see what the other was feeling. The poor little boy was an orphan, and grief had turned his mind, and he'd wandered away from the orphanage he must have been living in.

As it happened, on the table beside him was Bob's newspaper, and suddenly the little boy seemed to see it for the first time.
Philip Pullman

About Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman - I Was A Rat!

Photo © George Reszeter and the Oxford Times

“Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all.”—Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman is the acclaimed author of the His Dark Materials trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. His other books for children and young adults include Count Karlstein and a trilogy of Victorian thrillers featuring Sally Lockhart. The Golden Compass, the first of Pullman's His Dark Materials triology, won the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Fiction Prize.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I started telling stories as soon as I knew what stories were. I was fascinated by them: that something could happen and be connected to another thing, and that someone could put the two things together and show how the first thing caused the second thing, which then caused a third thing. I loved it. I love it still.

I grew up at a time when TV wasn’t as important as it is now. In fact, part of my childhood was spent in Australia at a time when that country didn’t even have TV so a lot of my early experiences with stories came from the radio, which is a wonderful medium. I remember listening to gangster serials, and cowboy serials, and best of all: “Faster than a speeding bullet—more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s SUPERMAN!”

Superman on the radio was exciting enough, but when I first saw a Superman comic, it changed my life. Soon afterward I discovered Batman, too, whom I loved even more. I had to argue with my parents about them, though, because they weren’t “proper” reading. I suppose what persuaded them to let me carry on reading comics was the fact that I was also reading books just as greedily, and that I was good at spelling; so obviously the comics weren’t harming me too much.

My favorite stories for a long time were ghost stories. I used to enjoy frightening myself and my friends with the tales I read, and making up stories about a tree in the woods we used to call the Hanging Tree, creeping past it in the dark and shivering as we looked at the bare, sinister outline against the sky. I still enjoy ghost stories, even though I don’t think I believe in ghosts anymore.

I was sure that I was going to write stories myself when I grew up. It’s important to put it like that: not “I am a writer,” but rather “I write stories.” If you put the emphasis on yourself rather than your work, you’re in danger of thinking that you’re the most important thing. But you’re not. The story is what matters, and you’re only the servant, and your job is to get it out on time and in good order.

The most valuable thing I’ve learned about writing is to keep going, even when it’s not coming easily. You sometimes hear people talk about something called “writer’s block.” Did you ever hear a plumber talk about plumber’s block? Do doctors get doctor’s block? Of course they don’t. They work even when they don’t want to. There are times when writing is very hard, too, when you can’t think what to put next, and when staring at the empty page is miserable toil. Tough. Your job is to sit there and make things up, so do it.

As well as keeping going, there are many other things I’ve learned about this craft, and some of them came to me when I was teaching. What I enjoyed most in that difficult and valuable profession was telling stories, telling folk tales and ghost stories and Greek myths, over and over, until I knew them as well as I knew my own life.

And in doing so, I learned some of the laws of a story. Not rules - rules can be changed. “Smoking Permitted Here” can become “No Smoking” overnight, if people decide smoking is a bad thing. But laws such as the law of gravity can’t be changed: Gravity is there whether we approve of it or not. And so are the laws of a story. A story that is unresolved will not satisfy—that’s a law. If a scene does not advance the story, it will get in the way—that’s another law. You must know exactly where your story begins—that’s a third. And so on.

One strange thing about stories is that you sometimes know how long they’re going to be, even before you’ve begun thinking about them. With His Dark Materials, the trilogy of which the first part is The Golden Compass, I knew from the very start—even before I had a main character in mind, and long before I knew what might happen to her—that this story would be 1,200 pages long. That was the size of it. I knew, too, that I was going to enter a world I hadn’t known before: a world of fantasy. Previously, all of my books had been realistic. When I began writing it, I discovered a kind of freedom and excitement I’d never quite felt before. And that is one of the joys of writing: You constantly encounter new experiences.

I live in Oxford now, and I do my writing in a shed at the bottom of the garden. If the young boy I used to be could have looked ahead in time and seen the man I am today, writing stories in his shed, would he have been pleased? I wonder. Would that child who loved Batman comics and ghost stories approve of the novels I earn my living with now? I hope so. I hope he’s still with me. I’m writing them for him.


PRAISE

THE GOLDEN COMPASS

—Winner of the Carnegie Medal
—An American Booksellers Book of the Year (ABBY) Award Winner

“As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra’s adventures.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

THE SUBTLE KNIFE

—An ALA Best Books for Young Adults

“More than fulfilling the promise of The Golden Compass, this second volume starts off at a heart-thumping pace and never slows down. . . . The grandly exuberant storytelling is sure to enthrall.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“The intricacy of the plot is staggering. . . . There is no doubt that the work is stunningly ambitious, original, and fascinating.”—Starred, The Horn Book Magazine

“The character development as well as the relentless pace . . . make this a resoundingly successful sequel. . . . It will leave readers desperate for the next installment.”—Starred, Booklist


THE AMBER SPYGLASS

—A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

“Pullman has created the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century.”—The Cincinnati Enquirer


“Absorbing. . . . Like Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling, [Pullman] invents a world filled with strange divinations and wordplays.”—Newsweek

“A literary masterpiece . . . [that] caps the most magnificent fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings and puts Harry Potter to shame. . . . A page-turning story that builds to a powerful finish.”—Oregonian

“Impossible to put down, so firmly and relentlessly does Pullman draw you into his tale. . . . [A] gripping saga pitting the magnetic young Lyra Belacqua and her friend Will Parry against the forces of both Heaven and Hell.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


I WAS A RAT!
“Phillip Pullman's tale is fast and clever.”—The New York Times Book Review


COUNT KARLSTEIN
“In this deliciously gothic thriller there are enough demon huntsmen, evil guardians, and brooding castles to please even the most desensitized reader.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“A welcome diversion . . . [that is] dashing, sparkling, and wildly over the top.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly
Praise | Awards

Praise

From the acclaimed author of the His Dark Materials trilogy comes an outrageously funny middle-grade twist on a familiar fairy tale.

Awards

NOMINEE 2004 Arizona Young Readers Award
WINNER 2001 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
NOMINEE 2003 Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award
WINNER 2001 Maine Student Book Master List

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