The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
Reasons for reading: Have always meant to; Carnegie Medal winner for Book Awards Challenge
From the back cover: "Maurice, a streetwise tomcat, has the perfect money-making scam. Everyone knows the stories about rats and pipers, and Maurice has a stupid-looking kid with a pipe, and his very own plague of rats - strangely educated rats... But in Bad Blintz, the little con suddenly goes down the drain. For someone there is playing a different tune and now the rats must learn a new word. EVIL. It's not a game any more. It's a rat-eat-rat world. And that might only be the start..."
Best line: "Of course, there weren't just rat plagues - sometimes there were plagues of accordian-players, bricks tied up with string, or fish - but it was the rats everyone knew about."
My thoughts: I wanted to like this one more than I did. I didn't even dislike it, I just...couldn't quite get lost in it. I haven't read any other Terry Pratchett books, so I don't know much about him, but I felt as though there was this sort of veneer over the book that I think must be his distinctive style. That doesn't make sense, really, but I can't do better than that.
There are very funny bits, to be sure, like the line above. Very British-humour bits. I loved that the rats had taken their names from stuff at the dump, so they're called things like Nourishing, Big Savings, and Sardines (who tap dances). There's a lot of scatalogical humour, which many boys would like and some rat swear-words. And a lot of dumb adults, always a good thing in kids' fiction. Keith the stupid-looking kid turned out not to be stupid at all, which I was pleased about. Malicia the girl who wishes life was a story was irritating but funny. I enjoyed her enormous bag filled with supplies for just about any emergency a young adventurer might encounter (including being faced with a giant squid), if they lived in a storybook. The nod to/jab at Beatrix Potter was a good joke, as the rats wish that animals and humans could get along (and all wear clothes) like they do in the twee Mister Bunnsy books.
I just couldn't quite suspend my disbelief enough. I didn't feel like the change that enabled the rats to think was explained well enough, just that they ate some enchanted stuff at the dump and the ability of the "king rat" to get inside people's minds was never explained at all.
The verdict: There's a lot that's funny and clever and even fairly deep in this book, so I can see why it won. Maybe I'm just not a Discworld-world girl. But I do still want to read Good Omens.