Walter: The Story of a Rat


This is the story of a writer and a reader. The writer is a person. The reader is a rat. They share an old house on Long Island, but have never met. How these two lonely creatures discover one another is the essence of this story.

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Walter, the Story of a Rat

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This is the story of a writer and a reader. The writer is a person. The reader is a rat. They share an old house on Long Island, but have never met. How these two lonely creatures discover one another is the essence of this story.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wersba's (Whistle Me Home) brief tale of a blossoming friendship introduces a literate rat, who "christen[ed] himself Walter" after reading works by Sir Walter Scott, and the children's book author whose home he inhabits. The rat hero, who lives under the floorboards of a house owned by Miss Pomeroy, makes a discovery in her library one day. Not only has she written a children's book series about a secret-agent mouse, but he discovers many other authors who have also written about mice ("There was a whole flock of little books by a woman named Potter, which dealt obsessively with mice," he observes disdainfully). Like Emmaline in Elizabeth Spires's The Mouse of Amherst, Walter begins communicating with Miss Pomeroy through notes, and he questions why authors never write about rats. In the satisfyingly sentimental finale, the author leaves for Walter a singular Christmas gift and the two finally meet. Wersba wryly interjects into her gentle narrative snippets of literature Walter has read, although many of the allusions will appeal more to older readers (a reference to Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the movie The Maltese Falcon, etc.). The real charm here comes through Walter's close observations of his writer landlady, and through Wersba's gradual build to a friendship that seems inevitable. Diamond's half-tone illustrations strike a pleasing balance between realistic portraits of the hero while also allowing his personality to come through. Ages 8-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Rats are given a bum wrap by humans. They are used to insult others, and people shy away from them and try to kill them using many nefarious means. But rats are just animals, no different from hamsters or squirrels. One rat has had enough of the poor treatment from humans. Walter does not stage a rat protest or try to organize a movement, but he sets out to let Miss Pomeroy, the woman whose house he is living, in know that he is not a terrible animal. It begins simply enough as Walter introduces himself by leaving a note. They begin a hesitant correspondence and before long, Walter feels as if he has made a true friend and, more importantly, one who understands that rats are not as bad as they have been made out to be. Walter is sure that he has made a true friend when Miss Pomeroy writes him a short story for Christmas, one featuring a rat who is a hero. What is more, Walter now feels as if he can actually approach Miss Pomeroy without fear. A rather charming short novel, Wersba intersperses the text with facts about rats explained from Walter's point of view. Diamond's black-and-white drawings are a charming addition to the book and most are worth a second or third glance in their own right. 2005, Front Street, Ages 7 to 10.
—Danielle Williams
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-An unlikely friendship develops between Walter, literate rat, and Amanda Pomeroy, elderly writer of children's books. With frequent references to adult literature (Edna St. Vincent Millay, Stephen King, Tennessee Williams, and Sir Walter Scott, and that's just the first page), Wersba lovingly describes Walter's path through Ms. Pomeroy's library and his discovery that she has created a whole series of books about a secret-agent mouse. He also becomes aware of Stuart Little, Noisy Nora, and a host of other mouse characters (but no rats). Some older readers will recall their literary heritage while perhaps gaining advice for moving out from it. Diamond's black wash and line illustrations depict the elderly woman and the wide-eyed and well-mannered rat with charm. The writerly prose, erudite vocabulary, and the plot's nearly flat trajectory make this slow for casual readers, and some literalists may wonder how a mouse's tiny paws can put snack dishes in the sink or heft heavy books. But those with a love of words will enjoy the way Wersba shows Walter sneaking up on a friendship with the elusive but observant author. Like Richard Kennedy's Come Again in the Spring (HarperCollins, 1976) or Randall Jarrell's The Bat-Poet (S & S, 1967), this book gives readers some writing to remember and a chance to view the world from a different perspective.-Susan Hepler, formerly at Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A small but very nearly perfect gem depicts the growing friendship between a literarily-minded rat and an aging author of children's books. Walter himself is a rat of elder years, one who delights in the solitary habits and library of the woman-Miss Pomeroy-in whose house he dwells. His uncanny ability to read has inevitably kept him apart from other rats, but in Miss Pomeroy, he sees a kindred soul-until he discovers that she writes, not about rats, but about mice. Wersba has created in Walter (he names himself after Sir Walter Scott) a complex character, whose essential rattiness coexists with his love of words, one who both takes care to hide his droppings and simultaneously cannot fathom why humans revile his kind. He encounters literature with all the wonder of an innocent, reveling in words he can only partially understand. The correspondence that begins between Walter and Miss Pomeroy reveals two prickly individuals, both lonely, both willing to overlook the other's signal flaws in their acknowledgement of a common ground. Funny and poignant by turns, here's a sweetly quirky love story of letters. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590789483
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2012
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 685,040
  • Age range: 9 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Wersba is the author of thirty books for young people, including her novel Tunes for a Small Harmonica: A Novel, a National Book Award nominee. A reviewer for the New York Times Book Review for many years, Wersba has also written for the stage and television. She lives in Sag Harbor, New York, where she runs a small publishing company called The Bookman Press.

Donna Diamond has illustrated numerous children's books as well as many book jackets. She lives in Riverdale, NY.

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