I Was a Rat!by Philip Pullman
"I was a rat!" So insists Roger. Maybe it's true. But what is he now? A terrifying monster rampaging in the sewers? The Daily Scourge is sure of it. A money-spinning fairground freak? He is to Mr. Tapscrew. A champion wriggler and a downy card? That's what Billy hopes. Or just an ordinary small boy, though a little ratty in his habits? Only three people believe this version of the story. Only one of them knows who Roger really is. And luckily a story about her can sell even more newspapers than one about a rat-boy.
- Brilliance Audio
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.50(d)
- Age Range:
- 8 - 13 Years
Read an 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 ago 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."
"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.
Meet the Author
Philip Pullman is the acclaimed author of the internationally renowned His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass, winner of the Carnegie Medal (England); The Subtle Knife, winner of a Parents’ Choice Gold Book Award; The Amber Spyglass, the first children’s book to win the overall Whitbread Award (England); and Lyra’s Oxford. His other books for children and young adults include The Scarecrow and His Servant, Spring-Heeled Jack, Count Karlstein, and a trilogy of Victorian thrillers featuring Sally Lockhart: The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, and The Tiger in the Well.
A graduate of Oxford University with a degree in English, Philip Pullman lives in Oxford, England.
- Oxford, England
- Date of Birth:
- October 19, 1946
- Place of Birth:
- Norwich, England
- Exeter College, Oxford University
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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In this book -I was a Rat- Philip Pullman tells the story of boy who has probably had some trouble with life, and honestly, it is one of the most confusing books I've ever read. The whole concept, the characters, the settings, the boy being tortured and a princess and a boy who was a rat..? What kind of a book should be like that, really. I just don't understand how people can find that amusing, because I really truly hated it, though the only part I can say I liked about it, is the life occasional life lessons some parts of the book bring. Odd book - Anonymous
This book is just confusing and obnoxious i mean who writes a book about a boy just all of a sudden wakeing up and realixing he is a boy and saying he was a rat???thats just plain stupid!my reading teacher read this to us students and the whole time he read it i felt like sleeping no joke! boring....im just saying no offense to the author or anything just dint write books about kids aying they hace been strande animals or RODENTS!eww rats are gross why not a kitty or something???well i do not reccomened this for anypne please i beg you it sucks and dont have someone reading it to you 8:10 in the morning thank you and goodbye!....
This book is very interesting. It is in the middle of a childs book and to just a pre-teen. I would believe this book is to hard and to hard to figure out the setting with children under 10 years old. This book is a page-turning book as in you want to keep reading it not just because you got a book report to do. I would say this book is thrilling, absorbing, and its aslo just for fun.
If you have ever wanted a book that has humor, and a peculiar storyline this book's for you !
i absolutly loved this book! it is so funny and intrigueing you wont want to put it down!
Not a perfect book, but one filled with lightly cynical humor. There's a sort of Greek chorus of tabloid front pages strung through the book that's just clever enough to attract the attention of a young teenager. The language plays with homonyms and the plot with manners. The setting seems to be a drab modern England, but not quite. The moral, which comes to us from both the Princess (Cinderella) and the 'Rat-boy' seems to be resigning yourself to what you once wanted, but have found out is quite different than you imagined once you got it, and learning from the experience. The book is thin, clean, straightforward--not at all as Gothic as the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. There's more than a little whimsy, too.