22/02/2005

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

I thought I had read almost everything by Terry Pratchett, until one of my sons quoted something from 'The Amazing Maurice', and I realised I had missed this one.

The classic story of the Pied Piper is translated to Discworld in this book - which is really for children, but inevitably (since it's Pratchett) equally enjoyable for adults. The cat Maurice, crafty and manipulative, organises a group of rats to pretend in various towns that they are a plague. Shortly afterwards a small piper called Keith arrives and agrees to get rid of the rats, for a hefty fee. This has been a highly successful money-making scheme, but the rats are beginning to get qualms about it. Maurice persuades them to do their stunt just one more time before retiring on their earnings.

However the town they choose already has some professional rat-catchers who leave traps and poison almost everywhere that rats might go. So the assignment turns out to be far more dangerous than expected - and in the process further villainy is unveiled.

There's excellent anthropomorphism in this book, with plenty of light humour, but there are also places where the humour is a little sick. It could be quite disturbing for a younger sensitive child, although I should think most would enjoy it by the age of about nine or ten, and it's ideal for younger teenagers as an introduction to the Discworld series.

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