9 Rated Books Book Reviews

Old School Wednesdays: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

Old School Wednesdays is a weekly Book Smuggler feature. We came up with the idea towards the end of 2012, when both Ana and Thea were feeling exhausted from the never-ending inundation of New and Shiny (and often over-hyped) books. What better way to snap out of a reading fugue than to take a mini-vacation into the past?

Old School Wednesdays Final

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Today, Ana continues her ongoing love story with Sir Terry Pratchett by reading The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.

Title: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents

Author: Terry Pratchett

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Corgi
Publication date: First published in 2001
Paperback: 256 pages

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents The Amazing Maurice

One rat, popping up here and there, squeaking loudly, and taking a bath in the cream, could be a plague all by himself. After a few days of this, it was amazing how glad people were to see the kid with his magical rat pipe. And they were amazing when the rats followed hint out of town.

They’d have been really amazed if they’d ever found out that the rats and the piper met up with a cat somewhere outside of town and solemnly counted out the money.

The Amazing Maurice runs the perfect Pied Piper scam. This streetwise alley cat knows the value of cold, hard cash and can talk his way into and out of anything. But when Maurice and his cohorts decide to con the town of Bad Blintz, it will take more than fast talking to survive the danger that awaits. For this is a town where food is scarce and rats are hated, where cellars are lined with deadly traps, and where a terrifying evil lurks beneath the hunger-stricken streets….

Standalone or series: It’s Discworld book #28 but it can be read as a standalone.

How did I get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): Print Book

Why did I read this book: I am on a mission to read ALL THE TERRY PRATCHETTs and my source for all things Pratchett told me to read this one next.


So, ever since hearing about the Amazing Maurice (in Reaper Man) for the first time, I had been thinking that Maurice was the boy in the cover of my copy of the book. Ha ha.

But Maurice is the cat. And he is Amazing (he says so himself). He is amazing because he can speak and he can think, just like the group of educated rats who are his associates in a fabulous scheme to make money. Travelling together from town to town in the company of a teenage piper, the idea is that the rats pose as a “plague” and the piper boy lures them away and in so doing “saves” the town and earns the crew money to keep them going.

But the rats are growing increasingly restless about their arrangement and start questioning Maurice and the ethics of their life choices.

Then they arrive in Bad Blintz, a poverty-stricken town with a pre-existing rat plague and even official rat-catchers. And as they go about setting up their scheme, they come to realise that there is something really wrong about Bad Blintz. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is a stand-alone Discworld novel, a take on “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”, Terry Pratchett-style, which means it’s funny, thought-provoking, intelligent.

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of… stuff one can find in a Terry Pratchett book. “Stuff” seems like a good choice of word here, because I am so very often at a loss for words when reading his books and because I sometimes feel I will never be knowledgeable (or smart) enough to even attempt to fully deconstruct his work. It’s always a daunting task to sit down to write something intelligible about a book like The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (or a book like Nation, or a book like Reaper Man. You get the idea).

And it’s funny how the book actually summarises some of its main themes in the first few opening lines:

“It was just a story about people and rats. And the difficult part of it was deciding who the people were, and who were the rats.
But Malicia Grim said it was a story about stories.”

And on one hand, yes: that’s the book right there. But then again: no, because that is woefully reductive? Because there is a plain good story between these covers and it’s the story of a group of rats who after ingesting toxic waste gained intelligence and little by little have started to question everything: what it means to be able to think, what is the meaning of life and of death, what is the nature of “rat”. It is a realisation that critical – and abstract – thinking comes with all sorts of strings attached and that with great thoughts come great responsibility.

It’s the story of a town as well as a story about power and poverty and greed so ugly you almost can’t believe it. It is also a story about survival, about fighting for what is right, about unimaginable cruelty[1. I first heard about Rat Kings reading this book. Insert expletives] but also surprising sacrifice. It is about the power of the “self”, about the power of the individual and the power of the group. It’s about moral conundrums and ethics. About rats who have named themselves Dangerous Beans, Darktan and Sardines when they first learn to read from labels and food tins but before they realised what the words meant. It is about a girl who named herself Grim and created her own history because stories matter and deconstruction and understanding of tropes can be a matter of life and death.

And yes, it is also a story about people and rats and a story about stories.

For children.

I was reading this very book when earlier this week The Telegraph published an article about novelist Joanna Trollope’s belief that: “Children need classics not fantasy” and that “children are getting little moral guidance from fantasy novels like Twilight”. I’d love to throw kindly point her – or anyone who scoffs Fantasy, YA or Children’s literature – toward this book, please and thank you preciouuuus.

Notable Quotes/Parts:

‘If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.’
‘And what if your story doesn’t work?’
‘You keep changing it until you find one that does.’

Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfection

Reading Next: Reality Boy by A S King

Buy the Book:

(click on the links to purchase)

Book Depository UK amazon_uk

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook, sony & iBookstore

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  • Bekah
    October 9, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    While I agree children should get little moral guidance than Twilight, why does it matter that children aren’t getting “moral guidance” from books? I knew that literature (and fiction in general) affects the way people think and perceive things, but if your first objective in writing a novel is to teach kids The Difference Between Right and Wrong, then it’s probably going to be a really bad author filibuster the whole way through.

    Parents are supposed to teach kids morals; literature shouldn’t be slammed for not picking up the slack there. Stories for kids should have the same objectives as stories for adults.

  • hapax
    October 9, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I cannot tell you how many promising middle-grade and children’s fantasies have been absolutely ruined by heavy-handed moralizing. (YA fantasies as well; yes, I’m looking at YOU, Mr Pullman, and the trainwreck that was THE AMBER SPYGLASS)

    Of course, I cannot tell you how much compassion, wisdom, courage, and strength I (and my children) have learned from reading great books that didn’t feel the need to constantly poke us in the ribs and say “This here’s a LIFE LESSON! Geddit? Geddit?”

    That said, Sir Pterry is more than a great writer, he is a great person. I say this because his books always challenge me, provoke me, and lead me to ideas and convictions I never would have come up with on my own — some of which, I know from interviews and such, are quite contradictory to his own views (and he’s just fine with that.)

    Oh, in re “rat kings”: You’ve never read Ibbotson’s WHICH WITCH? Oh, you must. You simply *must*. I love it even more than her (justly famous) SECRET OF PLATFORM 13.

    Go ahead. Read it now. I’ll wait.

    [taps foot]

    You back? Wasn’t the rat king chapter the creepiest thing EVER?

  • The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (2001) | Terry Pratchett and me
    September 19, 2017 at 12:11 pm

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