Great Middle Grade Reads discussion

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ARCHIVE - BOTM discussions > May BOTM: AMAZING MAURICE AND THE EDUCATED RODENTS

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message 1: by M.G. (last edited May 02, 2015 07:55AM) (new)

M.G. King (mgking) | 728 comments The group chose Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents to read in May. The target audience for this book skews to older middle grade/YA. From the GoodReads description:

Maurice and the rats have teamed up with a young lad named Keith to implement a clever moneymaking scheme. Upon entering a town, the rats make a general nuisance of themselves -- stealing food and widdling on things -- until the townsfolk become desperate to get rid of them. Then Maurice and Keith appear on the scene and offer to save the day by ridding the town of its infestation for a small fee. It seems like a surefire plan until the group arrives in the town of Bad Blintz and gets hooked up with Malicia, a young girl with a vivid imagination and a knack for finding trouble. When it's discovered that Bad Blintz already has a rat problem -- one that a couple of shifty-eyed rat catchers claim to have under control -- things turn deadly. For lurking beneath the town's streets is an obstacle course of mangling rattraps and noxious poisons. And beyond that is a monster so powerful and ugly, even Malicia couldn't imagine it.


As Maurice and the rats battle for their very survival, a number of provocative themes surface: life after death, good versus evil, and the sacrifice of the few for the many. But be forewarned -- those in search of lighter fare in these troubled times may not find what they are looking for in Pratchett's vision Despite plenty of razor-sharp wit and lighthearted moments, this tale has an underbelly as dark as the tunnels beneath Bad Blintz. Though The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is deeply witty and engaging, some readers may find parts of the story -- descriptions of how some of the rats die and how others eat their dead -- rather intense.


message 2: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
I read this last fall, or maybe last summer--great fun!


message 3: by Caitlyn (new)

Caitlyn Edwards | 3 comments Is this book good for a ten year old almost eleven


message 4: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
Hmm. I don't think there's anything too objectionable, but it's aimed a bit higher. Stuff may go over the 10-year-old's head.


message 5: by Carolien (new)

Carolien (carolien_s) A 10 or 11 year old will be able to follow the story, but not necessarily all the satire and nuances. However, the story should keep him interested.

This book contains one of my favourite Pratchett quotes of all time: "if you don't turn your life into a story, you just become part of someone else's story".


message 6: by M.G. (new)

M.G. King (mgking) | 728 comments Carolien wrote: "A 10 or 11 year old will be able to follow the story, but not necessarily all the satire and nuances. However, the story should keep him interested.

This book contains one of my favourite Pratche..."


I dog-eared the same quote!


message 7: by M.G. (new)

M.G. King (mgking) | 728 comments This was my first Terry Pratchett read, and thoroughly enjoyed the satire and humor in it, but it does feel like it was written for an adult audience. There is a little bit of philosophizing slipped in that most kids will miss. Some kids may like the "gross" elements (i.e., the rat's cannibalistic nature, etc), some kids won't. While I don't see myself going out of my way to recommend Pratchett to middle graders, I'm sure I'll look for more of his stories in the future.


message 8: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
MG, I have to admit that when I read it I had no idea it was marketed as a children's book. Same with the Tiffany Aching books (which I love, by the way).


message 9: by Stephen (last edited May 11, 2015 06:00AM) (new)

Stephen Moore I've just finished my re-read of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. To be honest, I loved this Carnegie award winning novel even more than the first time I read it. Typical of Pratchett, he likes to draw parallels and face his readers with sometimes uncomfortable issues. What better place than the safety of a fantasy story to raise the question of afterlife, and more... the very nature of existence? The premise is genius: take a set of 'dumb' 'unthinking' 'soulless' animals and with the help of a little spilled magic turn them into thinking, talking, self aware creatures the equal of ourselves. It certainly gives us something to think about (which, of course, is the author's intention). And like all great writers he tips the nod to his grown-up audience who stand in guardianship behind his younger readers.

Will all his younger readers get it? No. Definitely not. But for me, that's OK. I'm with Roald Dahl on this question (take a look at Matilda) Many will simply enjoy the wonderful - if sometimes gruesome - adventure of it all and the rest will float above their heads until they're ready to understand.

Middle grade? Yes. But older middle grade. With guidance, mature ten year old readers and up, if my classroom experience as an author is anything to go by.

Oh, and if you're looking for a Terry Pratchett book suitable for a younger middle grade readership take a look at Truckers.


message 10: by M.G. (new)

M.G. King (mgking) | 728 comments Stephen wrote: "I've just finished my re-read of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. To be honest, I loved this Carnegie award winning novel even more than the first time I read it. Typical ..."

This was a good recommendation, Stephen. I did love the parody and the multiple layers of the story. The character were all so clever -- loved Malicia. Will definitely take a look at Truckers as well.


message 11: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Moore Virginia wrote: "I just finished it. I have no idea why this is labeled as a children's book. This is a fantastic story and can be incredibly dark. I want to make all the people I know read it, but this story makes..."

One of my mantras has always been, the best children's books aren't just for children, they are for ALL readers. This book proves my point. I'm glad you liked it.


message 12: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
I'd even go so far as to say that the best children's books aren't even primarily for children.

And in spite of (or maybe even because of) this book, I hope I never have to look at a rat again at all!


message 13: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Moore Ha ha! What about educated rats? No?


message 14: by Dixie (new)

Dixie Goode (pandorasecho) | 177 comments Ok, so maybe I should try to get this one, and pass on Aprils selection? Somehow I missed most of the last six weeks of anyone's life but my granddaughter.


message 15: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Moore Yes please Dixie, if you've never read a Terry Pratchett before I don't think you'll be disappointed.


message 16: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
Dixie, definitely read this one!

And Stephen, I think the educated rats are the scariest!


message 17: by M.G. (new)

M.G. King (mgking) | 728 comments The rats were all very . . . . ratty . . .. but I'd rather hang out with them than some of the human characters in the story.


message 18: by Stephen (last edited May 19, 2015 05:38AM) (new)

Stephen Moore I love Maurice, a typically self-centered cat. And the rats too; they were just rats thinking and behaving like rats, which was brilliant characterization. That said, I think Malicia (great name) is my favourite character, always expecting their adventures to play out just like the story-lines of 'real' stories (duh! How good is that?) cliches and all.


message 19: by Dixie (new)

Dixie Goode (pandorasecho) | 177 comments Thanks everyone.


message 20: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
M.G. wrote: "The rats were all very . . . . ratty . . .. but I'd rather hang out with them than some of the human characters in the story."

Very true!


message 21: by Gretchen (new)

Gretchen M.G. wrote: "The rats were all very . . . . ratty . . .. but I'd rather hang out with them than some of the human characters in the story."

I just finished re-reading The Amazing Maurice, etc. It's got a really dark streak(which I love). Older kids (the ones who like The Hunger Games) ought to appreciate it. Thanks for putting it on the list. And you're right, M.G., some of the people are exceptionally wicked.


message 22: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Moore Exactly, Gretchen. We humans have always given rats a bad name. But who were the real rats in this story?


message 23: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1355 comments Mod
I thoroughly enjoyed the rat sequences in this book. Maurice seemed to me to slow up the book a lot, although I suppose his view gave a counterpoint to the rats’ own approach. The piper, Keith, was a nice chap, but meeting Malicia, the mayor’s daughter, was a trial that may have been necessary to the plot, or the sub-plot, but irritated me no end. It gave the book a sort of ebb and flow of enjoyment. Great, it’s the rats’ tale, and oh, it’s the humans again, sigh. I thought of the tide turning as I read, which must be bad.

Glad I read it, though! Thanks for choosing it.


message 24: by J.S. (new)

J.S. Jaeger (jsjaeger) | 168 comments This isn't a book I would've have just picked up off the shelf. I gave myself three chapters to see if I was into it enough to keep reading. The storyline hooked me and I really appreciated Terry Pratchett's writing style. I can see myself ready more of his books in the future. My big question, though, do all of his books have the dark streak to them?

For me, this book was too dark for a middle-grade read. I guess I can see 11 or 12 year old boys liking it, but I cringed several times at the rat violence. I just scrolled through the comments and agree with Gretchen. I think the Hunger Games crowd would like it.

I didn't feel uplifted after finishing it, even though I appreciated the message at the end.

Stephen, thanks for the suggestion about Truckers. I plan on checking it out.

Dixie, what genre is your favorite? April's selection of The False Prince has been one of my favorite reads in a long time. The writing style wasn't as clean as Pratchett's but the story was fabulous. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts once you decide which book to read.


message 25: by Dixie (new)

Dixie Goode (pandorasecho) | 177 comments I hate to admit it but for now I haven't decided to read either. The end of the school year, plus my son moving in here with his one year old has kept me reading without thinking. I read a couple books writers had given me for reviews and I read the boy who harnessed the wind for a local book club. Loved it.

My fav genre, I can't even begin to answer. I love books. Everything from picture books to horror to fantasy to classics. And I get into an author or series for awhile. But then switch. I love writing for middle grade, fantasy, and a kind of time twisted historical fiction, but for reading, everything goes. I guess lately I've leaned toward Sci Fi, and our book club picks here, and yet my school has a book swap shelf so I often get books for free from authors I've never heard of in genres I'd never pay for but end up loving.


message 26: by Carolien (last edited Jun 04, 2015 11:21AM) (new)

Carolien (carolien_s) J.S. wrote: "This isn't a book I would've have just picked up off the shelf. I gave myself three chapters to see if I was into it enough to keep reading. The storyline hooked me and I really appreciated Terry P..."

All of Pratchett's books have a dark streak to them. That said, he always balanced it beautifully with his humour.

His Johnny Maxwell series is probably a better middle grade read (and much less dark). Only You Can Save Mankind is the first in the series, but you can read them in any order.


message 27: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Douglass (rdouglass) | 1662 comments Mod
Pratchett was a master of what I'll call satire. Political/social commentary under the guise of fantasy. And that does tend to have a dark streak.


message 28: by Carolien (new)

Carolien (carolien_s) I've been reading a collection of his non-fiction writings called A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-Fiction which is a great read.

One of the pieces in the book is his acceptance speech for the Carnegie award which can be found here.

http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/p...


message 29: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle (fearlesshyeana) Rebecca wrote: "MG, I have to admit that when I read it I had no idea it was marketed as a children's book. Same with the Tiffany Aching books (which I love, by the way)."

While I love Maurice, Tiffany Aching will always have a very special place in my heart! Shepherd's Crown has just released in the UK and I'm still waiting on my copy. Without spoilers, has anyone read it yet?


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