There is no-one quite like Lauren Child. Her unique style of illustration, part drawing, part collage, lends itself brilliantly to this heartwarming tale of a homeless, nameless rat in search of an owner.
The rat has no name, so people just call him ‘that pesky rat’. He lives in dustbin number 3, Grubby Alley, and sleeps in a Hula Hoop packet with a used teabag as a pillow. Desperate for a name (and an owner) he visits his friends to work out what kind of lifestyle would suit him. Pierre the chinchilla has too many baths. Oscar the cat spends too much time on his own. The rat doesn’t fancy walking the tightrope like Nibbles the rabbit, and Miss St.Clair dresses Andrew the Scottish Terrier in a hat and coat. However, as the rat says, if wearing a jumper means he gets an owner ‘I would do anything to be somebody’s pet’.
Eventually he goes to the pet shop to be gently told that people don’t generally adopt brown rats off of the street. But he writes a (hilarious, beautifully conceived) notice and puts it in the window. And waits.
The rat is a loveable, charming protagonist – a streetwise street rat with a hard nose and a soft centre. Child’s drawings are typically full of character and humour is conveyed by both the pictures and the text. The patient rat waits in the pet shop on a stool three times his height with his little feet dangling in midair like a toddler. Nibbles the circus rabbit has career-related stress: “sometimes I could with leaving off the clown’s nose and putting my feet up.” And the rat wonders if his aversion to baths is based in an allergy to soap.
There is a lot to discuss in this book, too. Why is the rat homeless? Why do people judge him? More philosophical children may be able to handle questions like why the rat wants a name. Talk about the different houses he visits – where would you want to live and why? You could even branch out to arts and crafts and make your own collage of the rat in his bin, or make his pet shop advert.
That Pesky Rat has a happy ending with a genuinely funny twist. It is an absolute delight to read, look at and share. And if you needed any more convincing, it is now part of UNESCO’s Programme for the Education of Children in Need; buy a special copy of That Pesky Rat and all profits from both author and publisher go to the Programme. Have a look at My Life is a Story for more details.