Title: A Rat’s TaleA Rat's Tale
Author: Tor Seidler
Illustrator: Fred Marcellino
Pages: 186
Recommended Ages: 8 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

Not since The Roquefort Gang has such a compelling story of rodent heroics surfaced!

The Story.

Montague Mad-Rat is a shy young rat who prefers not to cross paths with any other rats while out gathering berries and feathers for his mother’s hattery business. But then comes the day that he rescues Isabel Moberly-Rat from being trampled in the rain, and he knows that his life will never be the same.

It isn’t until later that he learns that Isabel is from one of the most prestigious families in the New York wharves – and that the suit of a rat who works with his paws would be unwelcome by them.

Thence ensues a rollercoaster of goals, wills, emotions, and above all, Montague’s search for his own identity. Who is he really – and what can he become?

Discussion.

Alright, so this story was pretty adorable. I always enjoy animal stories which feature the class distinctions / rivalries which are found amongst humans. Whenever they are gathered together and projected onto animals, it really helps to highlight their folly.

Montague was a young rat who never questioned the path of his life – until he meets Isabel. Then he begins to wonder if his life is indeed inferior; if he would not be more important if he did not try to paint and sell seashells. He works his way through an identity crisis at the end of which he realizes that life is about more than awards and acclaim and that family bonds are both powerful and valuable.

The strangest part of the story comes when Montague’s uncle, Montague Sr. does business with a human who purchases art from him. The Uncle sells Monty’s seashells for a ridiculous amount of money ($10,000 apiece?!?!?), which is used to save the rat population from extermination (thus catapulting Monty into a position of importance). I mean, seriously? $10,000 for a piece of work from an unknown artists is a lot to ask in the human world…

We learn that Montague Sr.’s wife deserted him because she couldn’t stand his shiftless ways and preferred to travel. Both Mont Sr. and the wife seem to rue this, but they both view it as a necessity.

Obviously slightly romantic notions are employed – Isabel refers to one rat at her boyfriend, but also “holds tails” with Montague. In the end, she kisses him goodnight and they curl next to each other to sleep.

‘Gad’ is used six times and ‘lord’ is used once. I don’t appreciate the misuse of God’s name, but the way these words were employed helped to further the almost British class-atmosphere created by the story.

Conclusion. Slightly more philosophical than The Roquefort Gang, but not as adventurous.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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