Bob, a cobbler, and Joan, a laundress, live a quiet and predictable life in their small town. When they open their door to a lost, young boy one night, their lives change dramatically. The boy claims he was once a rat and shows no knowledge of normal human manners or eating habits. As Bob and Joan try to teach the boy they name Roger, they come to love him and think of him as their own little boy. Unfortunately, less charitable people want to exploit Roger for his differences. Soon, prejudice clouds the city, and the people cry for Roger, 'the sewer monster' to be exterminated. Will love or prejudice prevail?
With a fairy tale feel and simple story telling, Philip Pullman tells a powerful story about the dangers of judging others. He includes elements of well-known fairy tales, but manages to create an entirely new story. I originally picked this to read to my young boys, but while it is a light story, Pullman includes some of his trademark darkness. It is a perfect story for fantasy and fairy tale lovers of 8 years or older, but a little scary for younger readers. A quick read with some illustrations, it still teaches important lessons and makes young readers think.