cover image Walter: The Story of a Rat

Walter: The Story of a Rat

Barbara Wersba, , illus. by Donna Diamond. . Front Street, $16.95 (60pp) ISBN 978-1-932425-41-3

Wersba's (Whistle Me Home ) brief tale of a blossoming friendship introduces a literate rat, who "christen[ed] himself Walter" after reading works by Sir Walter Scott, and the children's book author whose home he inhabits. The rat hero, who lives under the floorboards of a house owned by Miss Pomeroy, makes a discovery in her library one day. Not only has she written a children's book series about a secret-agent mouse, but he discovers many other authors who have also written about mice ("There was a whole flock of little books by a woman named Potter, which dealt obsessively with mice," he observes disdainfully). Like Emmaline in Elizabeth Spires's The Mouse of Amherst , Walter begins communicating with Miss Pomeroy through notes, and he questions why authors never write about rats. In the satisfyingly sentimental finale, the author leaves for Walter a singular Christmas gift and the two finally meet. Wersba wryly interjects into her gentle narrative snippets of literature Walter has read, although many of the allusions will appeal more to older readers (a reference to Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby , the movie The Maltese Falcon , etc.). The real charm here comes through Walter's close observations of his writer landlady, and through Wersba's gradual build to a friendship that seems inevitable. Diamond's half-tone illustrations strike a pleasing balance between realistic portraits of the hero while also allowing his personality to come through. Ages 8-up. (Nov.)