A murky past;Children's books

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
Roger in Philip Pullman's latest, I Was A Rat! (Doubleday pound;10.99), is like Bartleby in Herman Melville's story, who preferred to say nothing except: "I would prefer not to".

Roger responds "I was a rat!" to every enquiry about his past, after turning up unannounced on the doorstep of Bob and Joan, a kind-hearted old pair.

Pullman's plays on words provoke the reader to think carefully about the way language is used. "He didn't say I am a rat, he said I was a rat," Bob explains at one point to a befuddled clerk. The text is interspersed with witty front pages from The Daily Scourge and evocatively illustrated by Peter Bailey.

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