by Josh Lieb


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Ratscalibur by Josh Lieb

From the New York Times bestselling author of I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President

A witty mash-up of favorite fantasy motifs.”—New York Times Book Review

Ratscalibur is funny, it’s scary, and it’s sweet, like life. But it has talking rats and magic, so it’s better than life.”—Jimmy Fallon

“Full of clever dialogue and hilarious puns...Don’t be surprised if this novel achieves best-seller status.” —Booklist

“The only way I could’ve liked this more is if I were eleven.”—Ira Glass

“A charming take on an old favorite.”—Publishers Weekly

When Joey is bitten by an elderly rat, he goes from aspiring seventh-grader to three-inch tall rodent.

At first, Joey is amazed by his new rat self. The city streets call to him at night. Smells that would have repelled him before are suddenly tantalizing. (A chicken bone? Yes! A squashed cockroach? Like perfume!) And wow, the freedom! But when a bout of hunger leads Joey to pull the spork from the scone, he finds himself at the center of a longtime rat prophecy.

Joey has unwittingly unlocked the sword Ratscalibur; and now, it is up to him to protect his new rat friends from the evil crows who seek to destroy their peaceful kingdom. But what does an eleven-year-old know about actual swordplay? And what happens when Joey no longer wants to be a rat?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595148292
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 05/10/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 550,102
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Josh Lieb is the producer and showrunner of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He won seven Emmy Awards as writer and producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has written and produced multiple other television shows, including The Simpsons and NewsRadio. His novel I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President was a New York Times best seller. He's married with two children and lots of animals. Follow him on Twitter @JoshLieb9.

Read an Excerpt

Joey didn’t want to move to the city, but his mom got a really good job offer, so here they were. The apartment was pretty small—just a bedroom for Mom, a bedroom for Joey, and a living room with a little kitchen attached. Right now it was full of brown cardboard boxes, stuffed with everything they owned.
“Joey, get me a knife,” said Mom. She was sitting on the floor ripping open boxes. She was looking for the coffee maker, but she hadn’t marked what box it was in. Mom drank a lot of coffee, so this hunt for the coffee maker was getting pretty desperate.
Joey handed her a steak knife. They had already unpacked most of the kitchen. There was still a lot of work to do, but he got kind of scared when he thought about what he’d do when they were done. He didn’t know anyone here. That morning, when he was helping the movers carry boxes, he’d spotted some boys across the street. They didn’t look like the boys from back home. One of them raised his arm and started to wave at Joey, but the other boy—the bigger boy—punched him on the shoulder, and he put his hand down. After that they just watched.
The city was big. The city was loud. The city was dirty. It was hot, too, but that’s the way it was in August anywhere. But hot in the city meant smelly. Every piece of dog poop or pile of garbage bags seemed to have a little cloud of stink around it. Their apartment was on the ground floor, which worried Joey. That made it easy for crooks to just climb in the window. Mom said the iron bars on the window would keep the bad guys out, but that didn’t make Joey feel any better. They hadn’t needed iron bars on their windows back home.
“Aaargh!” said Mom, as she threw handfuls of Joey’s underwear out of a box. Mom had a big vocabulary, but she sounded a lot like a half-awake animal when she didn’t get her coffee. All her words would turn into grunts and groans. “No coffee. Coffee maker hiding,” she said, and she dug some wrinkled money out of her purse and sent Joey down the street to buy a cup at the store on the corner.
The man at the store was nice, but he didn’t speak any English. Joey didn’t speak any Spanish, so they didn’t have anything to say after Joey got the coffee. Next year, in seventh grade, Joey would start taking foreign-language classes. It would probably be a good idea to take Spanish.
As he walked home, the sidewalk was crowded with people who were in a hurry to go somewhere and other people who weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere at all. Joey was bounced around among them, like a pinball. He almost spilled the coffee one time, when a skinny man in a business suit brushed past him. As he was steadying himself, Joey caught a glimpse of a pile of garbage behind one of the buildings on the block. It was just a big mound of empty bottles, plastic trash bags, and broken baby toys . . . but something underneath the pile moved.
Joey ran home the whole way, not caring if he spilled a little. “Mom, Mom!” he called, as he came through the door—and then stopped. Uncle Patrick was there!
He must’ve just walked in, because he and Mom were still hugging, even though Mom looked a little annoyed. Uncle Patrick let her go and turned to Joey. “Hey, honcho!” He gave Joey a huge hug of his own. Uncle Patrick was big, big, big. He had big hands, big shoulders, and a big, big belly. He didn’t have a job exactly, but he spent a lot of time watching football games, drinking beer, and falling asleep on the couch. He was kind of like a big friendly dog, which made sense. Mom said Uncle Patrick got along better with animals than people, anyway. He was Joey’s favorite person, besides Mom.
“How you liking life in the big city?” asked Uncle Patrick. Uncle Patrick had lived in the city for a long time, and being close to him was probably the best thing about moving here. Before Joey could answer—before he could say anything about the weird boys across the street, or the bars on the windows, or the thing that moved inside the garbage—Mom said, “Pretty cute of you to show up after we’ve done all the moving, Patrick.”
Uncle Patrick smiled. He had very white teeth, which were very crooked and stuck out of his mouth like jack-o’-lantern teeth. He ran his hand through his hair—which was very, very black and stuck out in messy spikes that looked sharp and dangerous, but were really soft when you touched them. “Aw, you know how it is, Sis,” he said. “I meant to come by earlier but something came up.”
“Yeah,” Mom said, “I know how it is.” She smiled to show she wasn’t mad. She couldn’t stay mad at Uncle Patrick for very long. He was her little brother—even if he was twice as big as her. Mom pointed at a box Uncle Patrick had brought in, which was covered with a dirty towel. “What’s that?”
“That,” said Uncle Patrick, “is a present for Joey. Go ahead, honcho, unwrap it.”
Joey “unwrapped” the box—which really meant just pulling the towel off it. It wasn’t a box, really. It was a cage, like people keep hamsters in, with a wheel for the hamster to run on, and a water bottle for the hamster to drink from, and everything. But the thing sleeping in the wood shavings at the bottom of the cage wasn’t a hamster. It was twice as long as any hamster, and it had a pointed snout and a long, hairless tail. And everywhere else it was covered with pure silvery-gray fur.
“That,” Mom said, “is a rat.”
“No, it’s a pet rat,” said Uncle Patrick. “What better companion could a newcomer to the city have than the ultimate city animal?” He slapped Joey on the back. “Rats are survivors, my man. You can learn a lot from them. Besides, the fur reminded me of you.”
Joey had mostly boring brown hair—not cool black hair like Uncle Patrick or bright red hair like Mom—but he also had this weird gray streak that ran along the side of his head over his right ear, like a racing stripe on a car. The streak was the exact same color as the rat.
“Where did you get it?” said Mom.
“The pet store,” said Uncle Patrick.
“Is it safe?” asked Mom. “Has it had its shots and everything?”
“Sure, it’s safe,” said Uncle Patrick. “Would they sell it if it wasn’t safe?”
“Why isn’t it moving?” asked Joey.
Uncle Patrick nudged the cage. The rat snored a little and rolled over on its side. “It’s sleeping,” said Uncle Patrick. “Rats sleep a lot.” He plopped down on the couch and started slapping the cushions. “Hey, nice couch.”
Joey didn’t know how he felt about having a rat for a pet. But he knew his mom wasn’t going to let him get anything bigger. The building wouldn’t allow it. A rat was better than a goldfish, he guessed. Besides, it was a gift from Uncle Patrick.
“I love it,” said Joey.
Uncle Patrick smiled. “I knew you would. What are you gonna call him?”
Mom said, “Might I suggest ‘Patrick’?” But she was smiling, too, so it didn’t seem mean. Joey looked at the rat. It was just sleeping there in the wood shavings, with its fangs hanging out of its mouth, but it looked kind of special. It didn’t look like a Patrick. Joey figured he’d come up with a better name later, when the rat woke up.
By the time Joey was ready to go to bed, though, the rat still hadn’t woken up. Joey put a slice of turkey in the cage, but the rat didn’t even seem to notice. Was it sick? Uncle Patrick had said that rats sleep a lot, but this seemed like too much.
“You’re going to like it here, Joey. You’ll see,” said Mom. Then she hugged him and kissed him and turned out the light, just like she did when she said goodnight to him back home.
But this wasn’t like going to sleep back home. The room was weird, and smelled weird. Joey’s bed was in the wrong corner. None of his posters were on the walls yet. He lay in bed, with his eyes wide open, looking at the strange shadows his half-unpacked boxes made on the ceiling.
But the weirdest part was all the noise. Joey was used to it being quiet when he went to sleep. Here, nothing was quiet. Mom had left the window open a crack, for the fresh air. Now Joey could hear everything outside. Women walking on the sidewalk in their high heels: KIK-kuk-KIK-kuk-KIK-kuk. Cars growling past, blasting music from their stereos: BOOM-boom-BOOM-boom. Horns honking. Cats howling. People laughing. There even seemed to be a little voice, saying over and over again, “Boy. Boy. Boy . . .”
Joey listened closely. There was a little voice. It was tiny, but it sounded old and smart, like a professor in a movie. And the words were very clear.
“Boy. Boy. Help me.”
It wasn’t coming from outside, though. Joey looked around the room. The voice seemed to be coming from his bedside table. Joey listened closer. It was coming from the hamster cage on top of the table.
“Yes, boy. Yes. Over here.”
Joey froze with terror. The voice was coming from the rat.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for Ratscalibur:

“It’s funny, it’s scary, and it’s sweet, like life. But it has talking rats and magic, so it’s better than life." —Jimmy Fallon 

Praise for Josh Lieb's I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President:

"If War and Peace had a baby with the The Breakfast Club and then left that baby to be raised by wolves, this book would be the result. I loved it." —Jon Stewart

"Josh Lieb is one of the great brave journeys in American literature. Or maybe he just signed my name to a blurb he wrote. Either way, you have to admit he's brave. And the book is hilarious." —Judd Apatow

"Josh Lieb has set literature back a hundred years." —Daniel Pinkwater

"Beware, kids: Once your parents pick it up, they won't be able to put it down. (Guilty as charged.)" New York Post

"Pitch perfect . . . Every kid who's ever felt put upon, misunderstood, and, let's admit it, infinitely superior to his or her peers will laugh out loud as they enter Oliver's hilarialous secret world." BCCB, starred review

"Lieb's creative and twisted first novel gets a positive vote." Kirkus Reviews

"Walter Mitty for teenagers, especially those who do not fit in. They will become huge fans of this book." VOYA

"This is a book that kids will be talking about." School Library Journal

Customer Reviews

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Ratscalibur 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really this book is good with the fact that Joey is turned into a rat by a simple bite and has an awesome adventure and that kiss at the end is really a good theme for a book like the beuty and the beast but not exactly
FrancescaFB More than 1 year ago
RATSCALIBER is a sweet, charming tale of bravery that took me back to grammar school when I first read The Sword and the Stone. The story is magical where we journey with Joey, a young boy who is transformed into a rat in order to help free the kingdom from the evil ones. As we travel into the cities’ underworld, laced with the mystic and some very sinister characters, we are privy to this netherworld of magical animals that include rats, cats, squirrels, and a guinea pig. Kids of this age group will delight in its fairytale and parents will be treated to a version that takes them back to this cherished childhood story.