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The Christmas Rat

( 7 )


A boy, a rat, and an exterminator —
three players in a game of survival.

Christmas vacation is supposed to be a blast. Or so Eric thinks. But with all his friends either sick in bed or out of town, Eric's getting more bored by the hour.
Then he meets Anje Gabrail, exterminator.
Anje's got all the normal stuff an exterminator needs — roach powders and smoke bombs — but he also...

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The Christmas Rat

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A boy, a rat, and an exterminator —
three players in a game of survival.

Christmas vacation is supposed to be a blast. Or so Eric thinks. But with all his friends either sick in bed or out of town, Eric's getting more bored by the hour.
Then he meets Anje Gabrail, exterminator.
Anje's got all the normal stuff an exterminator needs — roach powders and smoke bombs — but he also carries some extra equipment: a crossbow and metal-tipped arrows that can penetrate concrete walls and will annihilate any creature with which they come in contact. Anje's number one target? Rats.
To Eric, this guy is creepy but fascinating. So, with nothing better to do, he joins Anje on a mission to destroy the rat living in the basement of his apartment building.
But as Christmas Day draws nearer and the temperature outside keeps dropping, things in the basement go from weird to deadly. And Eric learns how valuable life truly is.

Alone in his apartment during Christmas vacation, eleven-year-old Eric finds himself caught in a battle between a strange exterminator and the rat he wants to kill.

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Editorial Reviews

It is six days before Christmas, and eleven-year-old Eric is bored stiff during his holiday from school. Both his parents work all day, and his friends are not around while a bitter cold spell keeps him inside the apartment. One morning Eric opens the apartment door to a weird-looking man who hands him a business card that reads "Anjela Gabrail, Exterminator." Anjela enlists Eric's help in exterminating rats in the apartment complex. At first, Eric thinks of the rat hunt as a game until he finds a rat in the storage bin in the basement. Then, Eric begins to feel sorry for the rat although it destroyed the family's treasured tree-topper angel. As the spirit of Christmas envelops Eric, his loyalty to the rat, however, incurs Anjela's wrath, and now Anjela Gabrail is hunting both Eric and the rat. As this book begins, one notices that some of the situations do not ring true. For example, why would an eleven-year-old boy who is afraid of the creepy exterminator not tell his parents? Just why does he care for the rat? Continuing on, however, the reader is captured by the suspense in the story and must read to the end to find out what happens. Because of the protagonist's age, this book will appeal best to young teens. It probably will not "fly off the shelves," but purchase and promote this story in both school and public libraries, especially as a seasonal story and a good read-aloud. The surprise ending makes it worth every minute, and an author's afterword explains many references within the book. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2000, Atheneum/S & S, 144p. Ages 12 to 14.Reviewer: Linda Roberts VOYA, February 2001 (Vol. 23, No.6)
Children's Literature
The exterminator who fumigates eleven-year-old Eric's city apartment is Anjela Gabrail. Anje, a huge man with white-blond hair, wears a skull-with-wings logo on his cap and combat boots. "If you see a rat, call me," he tells Eric, who is stuck at home alone. "You and me, we'll kill him, okay?" Eric does find a rat when he goes to the basement to get his family's Christmas decorations, and before he knows it, he is called Anje and sworn to help him kill the rat--"or pay the penalty." Author Avi's forty-five books include two Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards and two Newbery Honor books. He builds the action to heart pounding suspense as Eric becomes deeply enmeshed in a power struggle with Anje, finally realizing he doesn't want to kill the rat, he wants to save the rat. Anje then declares, "May the best rat win. And don't forget, I think you're a rat too." This realistic story weaves Christian, Jewish, and Islamic ideas about the Angel Gabriel into a taut suspense tale that never degenerates into the merely sensational. The moral and ethical struggle between good and evil hits the bull's-eye for middle school readers. 2000, Atheneum,
Kirkus Reviews
Eric Andrick's Christmas visitor is anything but a warm and fuzzy bringer of holiday joys, in this suspenseful but heavy-handed allegory by a gifted writer. Four days before Christmas, Eric is home alone in the Eden Apartments, terribly bored, and waiting for the exterminator. Enter Anjela Gabrail, white-haired, black-clad, wearing a winged-skull logo, an exterminator who loves to kill and especially loves to kill rats. He enlists Eric in a strange and solemn compact, to kill rats or pay the (unspecified) penalty. In the next few days, as the outdoors cold deepens to mirror the chill of the Eden basement—described as a place that is "like going down into the land of the dead"—Eric and the mysterious Anje move from allies to opponents in a steadily more menacing game whose eventual stated purpose is the life or death of a common street rat. Although the nature of Anje's hold on Eric is never made clear, Eric's steadily growing fear is almost palpable, and readers will be relieved when he wins the deadly game with nothing worse than a bleeding scratch to remind him that killing is not a thing to do out of boredom. The allegory is hammered in, but the building of tension is very skillfully done, and readers who enjoy horror and suspense will enjoy the descriptions of the ambiguous Anje and his deadly serious game. (Fiction. 10-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689838439
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Series: Aladdin Fantasy Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 937,222
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 500L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Avi is the author of more than fifty books for children and young adults, including the 2003 Newbery medal winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead. He has won two Newbery Honors and many other awards for his fiction. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado. Visit him at


Born in Manhattan in 1937, Avi Wortis grew up in Brooklyn in a family of artists and writers. Despite his bright and inquisitive nature, he did poorly in school. After several academic failures, he was diagnosed with a writing impairment called dysgraphia which caused him to reverse letters and misspell words. The few writing and spelling skills he possessed he had gleaned from his favorite hobby, reading -- a pursuit enthusiastically encouraged in his household.

Following junior high school, Avi was assigned to a wonderful tutor whose taught him basic skills and encouraged in him a real desire to write. "Perhaps it was stubbornness," he recalled in an essay appearing on the Educational Paperback Association's website, "but from that time forward I wanted to write in some way, some form. It was the one thing everybody said I could not do."

Avi finally learned to write, and well! He attended Antioch University, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and received a master's degree in library science from Columbia in 1964. He worked as a librarian for the New York Public Library's theater collection and for Trenton State College, and taught college courses in children's literature, while continuing to write -- mostly plays -- on the side. In the 1970s, with two sons of his own, he began to craft stories for children. "[My] two boys loved to hear stories," he recalled. "We played a game in which they would give me a subject ('a glass of water') and I would have to make up the story right then. Out of that game came my first children's book, Things That Sometimes Happen." A collection of "Very Short Stories for Little Listeners," Avi's winning debut received very positive reviews. "Sounding very much like the stories that children would make up themselves," raved Kirkus Reviews, "these are daffy and nonsensical, starting and ending in odd places and going sort of nowhere in the middle. The result, however, is inevitably a sly grin."

Avi has gone on to write dozens of books for kids of all ages. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing but the Truth (1992) were named Newbery Honor Books, and in 2003, he won the prestigious Newbery Medal for his 14th-century adventure tale, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. His books range from mysteries and adventure stories to historical novels and coming-of-age tales; and although there is often a strong moral core to his work, he leavens his message with appealing warmth and humor. Perhaps his philosophy is summed up best in this quote from his author profile on Scholastic's website: "I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read."

Good To Know

In a Q&A with his publisher, Avi named Robert Louis Stevenson as one of his greatest inspirations, noting that "he epitomizes a kind of storytelling that I dearly love and still read because it is true, it has validity, and beyond all, it is an adventure."

When he's not writing, Avi enjoys photography as one of his favorite hobbies.

Avi got his unique nickname from his twin sister, Emily..

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    1. Also Known As:
      Avi Wortis (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2008

    The Christmas Rat Review - I am a 6th Grade Student in Glendale,AZ

    The Christmas Rat by Avi is by far the best book I¿ve read this year. Eleven-year-old Eric is very bored at his home on Christmas break. He thinks he¿ll pass the time by assisting an exterminator kill a rat. Later, Eric doesn¿t know who he wants to help, the rat, or the exterminator.<BR/> The Christmas Rat is about a boy named Eric and his Christmas this year. He is very bored in his home. Eric¿s friend is gone for Christmas break and can¿t wait to come back.<BR/>In the meantime, the boy decides to try to find something to pass the time until Christmas. An exterminator comes to make sure nothing is infesting the Eden Apartments, when Eric sees a rat. Eric later joins Anje, the exterminator, in killing the rat. Eric is now on a mission to kill the ¿Christmas rat¿. After a few days on his mission, Exterminator Eric wants the rat not to be killed. Young Eric interferes with Anje¿s poison and rat killing mechanisms. Eric has to keep the ¿Christmas Rat¿ safe just until Christmas. Then this nightmare will be over.<BR/> This story takes place in wintertime at the Eden Apartments. There are no actual years, but this story is in December. A theme for this book is to value your life. All living creatures, even rats, have a life. I loved this book for many reasons. I like how they used Angel Gabrial from the bible in this book. Another reason I love this book is because it goes from a boy trying to help a little rat (calm), to a rat exterminator going berserk and shooting a boy with a crossbow (action).<BR/> I connected to this book because on most of my breaks off school, I can¿t be with my friends. Another connection I made to the book was that I have been determined to finish what I¿ve started many times. <BR/><BR/> Related Books:<BR/> Listen<BR/> The Ear, Eye, and the Arm<BR/> The Giver

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2010


    A tale that could have served to warn children to share "secrets" with their parents, shows children they can handle dangerous situations without an adult's help. This boy is totally self reliant. He handles everything without his parent's 'help or knowledge. That might be fine except Anje is dangerous. He threatens the boy's life, shoots at him with a crossbow and gains access to the boy's locked apartment in the middle of the night.

    I'm stepping off my soap box. The story should capture a child's full attention. The most reluctant reader will tear through the pages, Will the rat make it until Christmas and should Eric be worried about his own fate? These questions will keep a child wondering and reading for hours on end.

    Eric is a resourceful young man. His logic is clearly that of a young middle grader without the ability to anticipate the possible consequences of his silence. If I could get past these concerns and read the book for its pure entertainment value, it would receive 4 ½ smiley faces. I can't. Serious danger surrounds the boy. As a child I may not have the foresight to forecast possible dire repercussions for his silence.

    Anje is obviously demented and might hurt Eric, his family or someone else. It doesn't add up. Eric seems to have a good relationship with both of his parents. Why wouldn't he confide in them? He is scared and should be.
    I do not recommend this book.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    Great book for anyone!!

    Teaches you about standing up for what you believe is right. No matter what. I've read it many times and I can say it is an interesting book. With a great moral behind it, The Christmas Rat, is a great book for children to read. It's also a very fun read. A must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2008

    The Christmas Rat. I'm a 6th Grade Student in Glendale, AZ

    This was a short but amazing book. The main charecter is Eric. Eric is a teen that lives around Long Island. Anje Gabrail is an exterinator that used to be in the army. Anje also dislikes rats.<BR/>Anje comes to check Eric's house. Anje says if he sees a rat, call him. When Eric sees a rat in his Christmas storage, he calls Anje. The next day, Eric didn't want to kill the rat and Anje gets angry. Anje is still trying to kill the rat, so Eric tries to protect the rat interfering with Anje's work.<BR/>This book takes place at Long Island. It also takes place in Eric's apartment a few days before Christmas. The theme of this book is not to kill creatures just because you dislike them. I really enjoyed this book. Not only because it is a Christmas story, but it is so interesting. I could not stop reading. This book connects to me because I may not like rats that much, but I think they should still live. Christmas Rat was a fantastic book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2004

    Could he be any creepier?

    This was a fun read by Avi. Eric is an average kid, bored by Christmas break, who stumbles upon a creepy exterminator who is dead set on killing the building's rat before Christmas. What starts out as a way to pass the time quickly becomes an obsession for Eric as readers read along with his plight to save the rat and foil the exterminator.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2003

    good book

    I think this is an outstanding book it was enjoyable so if you would like to read a relaxing adventurous book this is a book for you this does have an extordinary ending and the exterminator is a little freaky but over all its a good book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2001

    A Suspenseful Thriller

    A supensful thriller, Avi's The Christmas Rat is a captivating but moody tale about Eric Andrews and his fight to save the Christmas Rat. In this novel Eric Andrews meets Anje, the exerminator, a weird but exciting kind of guy. Anje tells Eric that rats are our number one enemy and Eric promises Anje that he will always discourage rats , but he starts to think 'Why would someone discorurage these harmless creatures?' Eric is determined to save the rat. Can he save the Christmas Rat? Read On!!!

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