Book Review: “The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents” by Terry Pratchett

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This Carnegie-Award-winning children’s book is another stand-alone tale based in the fertile soil of Pratchett’s legendary Discworld, though not a part of the Discworld series as such. Based loosely on the classic tale of the Pied Piper, it takes off in a completely new direction.

To start with, the piper is a stupid-looking boy named Keith who travels around with a cat named Maurice and a clan of rats that have somehow been given the ability to think and talk like people. Together they visit town after town, creating a bogus “plague of rats,” then waltzing out of town in procession behind the pipe-playing boy and, later, splitting up the money the townspeople paid him to do his thing.

They don’t ask for much. As Maurice points out, they’re giving value for money — and charging a fraction of what the real rat piper does — and no one gets hurt. The cat wants the money to save up for his retirement. The rats — guided by strong leaders like Hamnpork and Darktan, deep thinkers like Peaches and Dangerous Beans, and a tap-dancing ne’er-do-well named Sardines — are saving to buy a boat and sail away to a desert island, where they can build a new society of sentient rats.

But their newfound conscience is troubling them, so they decide the next town will be their last. Too bad they pick Bad Blintz, a town in the wild and woolly Überwald region that has its own problems. While the people live on the edge of starvation because of what they believe to be a plague of rats, the cellars under the town are full of poison and traps and empty of living rats. Something very, very wrong is going on down there.

Something evil, in fact.

It has something to do with a couple of atrociously corrupt rat-catchers. But even more importantly, it has to do with a menace that lives in the dark. A blind thing that sees through many eyes. A being that can control the minds of rats, cats, and even humans. Something created by human cruelty, and bent on inflicting the ultimate cruelty on mankind.

It’s not for the faint at heart. What begins as a charming, “cracked fairy tale,” turns into a thrilling, scary, dangerous adventure. Prepare to nibble your nails while Keith, together with a girl named Malicia with a headful of stories, risk death for the stupid-looking boy’s rat friends. Prepare to be moved, terrified, surprised, and amused by the way Maurice lives up to his cat nature… and rises above it. Prepare to laugh, gasp, cheer, and possibly even cry as the rats prove to be the bravest, smartest, and noblest characters of all. And learn once again why Terry Pratchett has won so many awards and enthralled so many readers of all ages.

Recommended Age: 12+