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The rat in the hat The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett 269pp Doubleday 1299 A talking rat is fighting for his life against a terrier inside a circle of excited men who whoop and roar and snarl Another rat bungee-jumps down from the rafters to rescue him In the instant of astonishment before both rats are whisked skyward the human onlookers just have time to notice that the rescuer is wearing a tiny boater on his head He lifts it Good evening he squeaks This is a scene from The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents which has just won Terry Pratchett the Carnegie Medal childrens literatures highest award Maurice is a cat the rats are accidental beneficiaries of a magic spillage together with a daft-looking human boy who plays the flute they travel from town to town working a Pied Piper-related con on the unsuspecting inhabitants Ethically challenging beautifully orchestrated philosophically opposed like all of Pratchetts books to the usual plot fixes of fantasy The Amazing Maurice deserves its medal But as usual theres a certain arbitrariness about which one of a good authors good books the award goes to Johnny and the Dead 1993 and Johnny and the Bomb 1996 the two high points in Pratchetts series about a melancholy 13-year-old assailed by supernatural troubles were just as amazing as Maurice but there were other claimants on the shortlist in those years whose body of work for children shouted louder Getting the Carnegie this time should be seen in turn as a compliment to Pratchetts whole body of work not just Maurice Actually theres a further arbitrary element at work specific to Terry Pratchett when he wins a prize for childrens books The truth is that he writes in almost exactly the same way for children as he does for adults We have other writers like Peter Dickinson who write for both and draw on aspects of the same
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