Chinese New Year 2020: Coolest rats in literature

Here are five of the best fictional rodent characters in books, just in time for the Year of the Rat

Susan RamsayDannie Higginbotham |

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The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

Terry Pratchett

OK, so, you’ve read the Pied Piper of Hamelin, but what if the whole thing was a scam? In The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, Terry Pratchett turns that old fairy tale on its head.

Maurice is a very clever talking cat, who has found a way to make a good living off humans’ fear of rats. It just so happens that the rats Maurice knows can talk, and together with a kid called Keith, they can totally convince the townsfolk that they need a pied piper right now!

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King Rat

James Clavell

This is kind of like Lord of the Flies, but with adults, and set during the second world war. The men held within the Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore live in their own form of society under the watchful eye of Japanese soldiers.

Clavell draws on his personal experience as a prisoner of war in Asia, and explores themes of survival and morality. How far would you go to survive?

Stuart Little

E. B. White

This classic tale tells the story of a mouse named Stuart, born to an ordinary family in New York City. He is normal in every way, except he is only 5 centimetres tall and “looks somewhat like a mouse”. His small size helps him in a variety of tasks at home, including retrieving his mother’s wedding ring from the sink drain. Only the family cat, Snowbell, dislikes Stuart because he isn’t allowed to eat him.

When the family adopts an injured songbird named Margalo, who is then forced to flee when her life is in danger, Stuart leaves his home and go on an adventure to find her. It’s an adorable story and is often praised as one of the best American children’s books.

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Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Robert C. O’Brien

Mrs Frisby the mouse lives with her family in a field owned by a farmer called Mr Fitzgibbon.

He is set to begin the spring ploughing soon, which means that Mrs Frisby needs to move her family to their summer home. However, her young son, Timothy, is ill with pneumonia, and won’t survive the move.

She seeks help from a wise owl, who directs her to a sophisticated society of rats living in a nearby rosebush: so sophisticated, they have technology such as electricity and heating.,She discovers they were part of an experiment by the National Institute of Mental Health (Nimh), which left them with heightened intelligence and strength.

It’s a thrilling adventure that will leave you on the edge of your seat, wondering if poor Mrs Frisby and Timmy will make it safely to their new home.

Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame

If you haven’t read this classic yet, you’re in for a treat. Four friends – Mole, Ratty, Badger and Toad – have endless adventures together in Edwardian England. Like most books of this nature, Wind in the Willows was born out of the stories author Kenneth Grahame would tell his disabled son, Alastair, whose nickname was “Mouse”.

If you have younger siblings, you’ll be a bedtime hit if you read this story aloud. As a bonus, you can practise your English diction while you do.

Edited by Ingrid Piper