A Rat's Tale
  • A Rat's Tale
  • A Rat's Tale

A Rat's Tale

by Tor Seidler, Fred Marcellino

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Although young Montague Mad-Rat lives in--or rather, under--New York City, he know very few rats besides his mother, who makes hats, his father, who builds mud castles, and his globe-trotting Aunt Elizabeth. But Montague's life takes an abrupt turn for the eventful the stormy day he meets Isabel Moberly-Rat on his way home from Central Park.

Home, for Montague,

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Although young Montague Mad-Rat lives in--or rather, under--New York City, he know very few rats besides his mother, who makes hats, his father, who builds mud castles, and his globe-trotting Aunt Elizabeth. But Montague's life takes an abrupt turn for the eventful the stormy day he meets Isabel Moberly-Rat on his way home from Central Park.

Home, for Montague, is an old sewer pipe. He now learns that there is a cityful of other rats out there who inhabit abandoned piers and lead considerably less eccentric and more luxurious lives than his family. What's more, these rats are in the midst of a grave crises. A human being has decided to turn their piers into parking lots, and an extermination campaign is already under way.

As Montague stumbles into this wider, bewildering world, he long to help ratdom (and impress Isabel). But what can he do, when his only talent is painting the seashells his Aunt Elizabeth brings him from her travels? And to make matters worse, it turns out that a drunken uncle of his, Montague Mad-Rat the Elder, has made their name a standing joke in the rat world. For the first time in his life, young Montague finds out what it is to feel helpless and alone--little realizing that he has not only Isabel and his seashells on his side but his despised drunken uncle as well.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set on the wharfs and in the sewers of New York City, this story features young &Montague Mad-Rat, a rat among rats in one of the most original, imaginative stories to &appear this season. Montague, painfully shy, spends his days collecting feathers and &berries for his mother to make hats from; he also paints tiny, exquisite pictures on &seashells brought to him by his seafaring aunt. Montague's adventure begins when he &rescues Isabel Moberly-Rat from nearly drowning in a gutter. Escorting her home, he &learns that her exclusive address (Wharf 62) and family name (her father is one of &ratdom's leading citizens) are far superior to his ownhe hadn't realized that some rats &were ``better'' than others. Meanwhile, the whole rat population is being threatened with &extinction from poisoning, thanks to a land-development scheme. Mr. Moberly-Rat &organizes a massive RRR campaign (Raising the Rat Rent)a ransom to the humans so &they'll stop the poison. Teaming up with his uncle Monty (a drunken outcast from rat &society), Montague embarks on a courageous quest among humans to raise the money, and in the &bittersweet finale saves the kingdom and wins the girl.& Beautifully told, Seidler's fantasy never falters; it's a love story, a coming of age tale and &a grand adventure. all rolled into one. Marcellino makes his debut in children's books; his wonderfully understated pencil &drawings add humor and much atmosphere to the tale. If readers can get past the fact that &the book's hero is a sewer rat (a not immediately lovable creature), or if they aren't &bothered by the crowd scenes (the thought of a million rats gathered in Central Park may &make some readers squeamish), they'll be treated to a memorable story. Adults will &appreciate its humor and biting social commentary, though the subtleties won't be lost on &young readers. (6-up)
Publishers Weekly
"Beautifully told, Seidler's fantasy never falters; it's a love story, a coming of age tale and a grand adventure," praised PW in a boxed review. Ages 8-12. (Dec.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6 This whimsical adventure tale with a moral underpinning introduces Montague Mad-Rat, a young rat living with artistic and absent-minded parents in the sewers beneath New York City. His sheltered life is changed when he finds that the huge population of his fellow rats occupying the abandoned piers at the waterfront are in danger of total extermination; the crisis makes him doubt his self-worth, even as he tries to cope with the further discovery that a drunken uncle of his has made their name a standing joke in the rat world. Little does he realize that the salvation of ratdom depends on his own unappreciated talents as well as the despised uncle. The gentle satire of the charming story casts familiar human foibles in rodent form (his potential girlfriend's pleasingly plump mother has taken up petal arranging to take her mind off cheese), and there are some poignant scenes. Although seemingly light entertainment, the novel tackles such topics as death, strength of character, and self-acceptance, and handles them well. The book is handsomely designed, with clean bordered pages of text and expressive illustrations in tones of gray to complement Seidler's well-delineated characters. Lyle Blake Smythers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

On a sticky midsummer day, when the heat and humidity kept most of the creatures in Central Park from stirring, a young rat named Montague Mad-Rat-or, to be precise, Montague Mad-Rat the Younger--was busy collecting feathers in the birds' preening grounds above the reservoir. Once his tail was looped around as many feathers as it could manage, Montague crept through the underbrush down to the berry patches by the Great Lawn. Here he carefully gathered up ripe, fallen berries into his mouth, choosing the widest possible selection of colors. These were for his mother, who melted the berries down into dyes to color the feathers, which she fashioned into rather fanciful shapes best described, perhaps, as rat hats.

When his cheeks were bulging, Montague beaded for home. The quickest way was by an underground drainpipe that came up in Columbus Circle, at the foot of the great park. But it always took him quite a while to get there because of his zigzagging route under bushes and park benches. Montague dreaded like the plague meeting other young rats. If they ever caught sight of him, they poked fun at him. Not that he really blamed them, considering his puffy cheeks and the bouquet of feathers in his tail. But once, about a year ago, he'd introduced himself to a group of young wharf rats in the park before he'd collected any feathers or berries, and they'd pointed and laughed at him anyway. Something was obviously the matter with him-but what? This mystery, haunting him ever since, had turned him painfully shy.

On this particular summery afternoon, Montague had made his winding way only halfway down the park when the air grew very still.It was almost as if the sky were holding its breath. He poked his snout out from under a forsythia bush and looked across the Sheep Meadow. It was sheepless, as usual, sprinkled with the regular huge human children holding ice cream cones and balloons. But a faint sound came from the distance, as of a rat scampering over a tin roof. Suddenly there was a clap of thunder. The sky seemed to take this as a signal to stop holding its breath. The faint scampering sound grew into a loud rustling, and all the trees around the meadow bowed their heads before a driving wind. As the human children ran for cover, they let go of their colorful balloons. The balloons went up, the raindrops came down. They met, and the rain won, bursting all the balloons in a second.

By the time Montague finally came out of the park onto Columbus Circle, his sleek gray fur was soaked, and he'd lost half his mother's feathers. Columbus Circle was in a turmoil. Yellow cabs and delivery trucks were honking, and drenched people were rushing every which way, making it a decidedly unpleasant spot to linger. But just as Montague was about to dive off the curb into the shelter of an underground drainpipe, something caught his sharp eyes. A prim pack of rats was stranded under the towering statue in the center of the Circle, huddled under brightly colored umbrellas. Montague was surprised: he'd never seen rats with umbrellas before. A giant bus rolled up to the statue. One after the next, the rats leapt up onto the bus's back bumper, where they sat in a neat row, still holding their umbrellas over their heads. As the bus pulled away, a strong gust of wind caught the umbrella of the rat seated on the far end of the bumper. This umbrella went sailing and tumbling through the air, high over the traffic.

It landed below the curbstone a yard from where Montague crouched. Clinging to the handle was a young she-rat with bewitchingly beady eyes, which she blinked, as if mildly startled. She gave a sneeze as she climbed onto the curb, and then with her free forepaw she evened the bow of a blue ribbon that was tied around her neck. Montague had never seen a rat wearing a ribbon before.

"Gad, that was different," she said, smiling at him from under the rim of her umbrella, which was made of shiny plastic. "Did you see me?"

Thanks to the berries clogging his mouth, all Montague could do was nod.

"It was pretty exciting," she confessed. "Are you a wharf rat, too?"

He nodded again.

"I thought so, but you look so awfully dark, and your cheeks ... No offense, but they're like a chipmunk's. Did you leave your umbrella home?"

Since he had no umbrella to his name, it was a hard question to answer without resorting to words. He simply smiled. She broke into a bright laugh.

"You'll have to excuse me," she said, her gray eyes twinkling beadily. "But your smile . . . Where did you get those cheeks?"

He stopped smiling.

"Oh, I didn't mean to offend you! It's just the cheeks, and the feathers, and no umbrella, when all those clouds were piling up across the river this morning."

The thought of it all made her giggle uncontrollably. She clapped a paw over her snout to stop herself. Just then, another strong gust of wind swept across Columbus Circle, and it jerked the umbrella out of her other paw. The umbrella sailed away into the park, over the bowing treetops, growing smaller -and smaller until it disappeared in the rainy distance like a bird migrating north for the summer.

"I'll be I" she said.

Now that the young she-rat's fur was in danger of getting as soaked as his, Montague extended a paw toward the grating, inviting her to slip through ahead of him. She stared at him curiously.

"You want me to cross the street?" she asked, blinking raindrops out of her eyes. "Hadn't I better wait for the light?"

A Rat's Tale. Copyright © by Tor Seidler. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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