Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Walter: The Story of a Rat

Walter: The Story of a Rat

Barbara Wersba
Illustrator:  Donna Diamond 
For ages 8 and up
Boyds Mills Press, 2012   ISBN: 978-1590789483

Walter is an elderly rat who lives in a house with an old lady called Miss Pomeroy. Walter looks like a perfectly normal Norway rat, but when he was a very little rat pup something rather remarkable happened; Walter figured out how to read, and he has been reading ever since. One of the main reasons why Walter likes living with Miss Pomeroy, aside from the fact that she does not have a cat, is that she has a house full of books, and she is writer. What could be more perfect for a rat who loves the written word.

Every night, after Miss Pomeroy goes to sleep, Walter makes his way to her library and he borrows one of her books. He reads all kinds of books, both fiction and nonfiction. One day Walter finds himself on a shelf where there a lot of children’s books, and he discovers that Miss Pomeroy has written twenty children’s books, all of which feature a secret-agent mouse called Bromberg.

Walter feels very let down. Why would his Miss Pomeroy write about mice? Why do so many writers use mouse characters? Why are rats so hated that no one wants to put a rat into a story? Walter is sorely tempted to write to Miss Pomeroy to express his disappointment. However, he remembers that it is never a good idea to let a human know that a rat is in residence. Surely Miss Pomeroy will call in a rat catcher if he communicates with her. Even if she doesn’t, surely it would not be a good idea to criticize her writing.

In spite of his concerns, Walter does end up writing to Miss Pomeroy. He leaves her a note on her desk that says, “My name is Walter. I live here too.” The next night he goes to her office and he discovers that his note is gone and a reply is in its place. The note reads, “I know.”

This short message gives Walter quite a shock. When the rat and his hostess exchange letters a second time, he finds out that Miss Pomeroy has known about his presence in her house from the day that he moved in. Her second letter is a little “hostile” one could say, but at the same time she does say “you are not unwelcome here.”

Over the next few weeks the rat and the old lady keep up their correspondence; they talk about books and share ideas. Walter finally broaches the subject of the mice in her books. Why doesn’t anyone ever write about rats he asks? In her reply Miss Pomeroy tells Walter about the rats who appear in several books. One the main characters in The Wind in the Willows is a very likeable rat.

Walter really enjoys his relationship with Miss Pomeroy. If only they could meet instead of relying on letter to communicate.

This remarkable book introduces readers to two characters who are very unalike and yet, by sheer good luck, who make a connection that improves both their lives. We serve as witnesses as their friendship grows and evolves, and we cannot help hoping that somehow the rat and the old lady will find in each other something that is missing from their lives.