Unroll the maps to Far Away! We'll sail before the sun ... Join our weary ship rat as he reminisces of days gone by, his travels around the world and the sights he's seen, written in lyrical, evocative language.
Children's illustrated soft cover. Age range 4 yrs - 12yrs
"The Song of the Ship Rat" reminded me of J M Barrie's "Peter Pan" - it tells the story of an adventurer who has done everything he could possibly want to do, and then returns home to settle down only to find that everything has changed and it is no longer the home he remembers. A nasty shock indeed!
Although the Christchurch earthquakes are not specifically mentioned, the book was published in 2013 and is presumably set in Lyttelton - the actual time and place are not identified in the text but the book is dedicated to the Children of Lyttelton Harbour (and three Little Rats). This was one of the areas that suffered huge damage two years prior to the book's publication, so Rat's disappointment in finding that so many things have changed is poignant in view of the port's history. It is a fact that many animals went missing in the wake of the earthquakes, including, no doubt, many of the rat population.
Aside from the somewhat grim back-story and Rat having to accept that some of his friends are no longer there, the accounts of Rat's travels and the accompanying illustrations are just delightful. The experiences that Rat has as he visits different parts of the world are informative and would encourage young readers to investigate variations in climate.
I can see that young children might enjoy the story and pictures (although some might be upset that Molly might have died), but I think it is possibly more suited to older readers who can explore the various ideas in the book. There is a rich learning opportunity here for seven and eight year olds who are sufficiently mature to understand the message - that things change and sometimes we just have to make the best of them. Personally, I would buy the book for the illustrations alone!
On the front of this book we see a rat looking at a large ship. It makes me think about what the rat is thinking and what adventures he is about to have.
I read the book to Mr 4 and he particularly enjoyed the illustrations. They are a beautiful combination of watercolour and coloured pencils. I think that the poetry used in the book is aimed at upper primary aged children as the combinations of words used are more sophisticated than your average picture book for young children. Mr 4 loved seeing the map of New Zealand on one of the pages. It created a link for him with the book.
The text rhymes nicely and I think that it probably appealed more to me as an adult than to Mr 4. Apart from looking at the pictures, the story was totally lost on Miss 2 (totally understandable as it isn't aimed at her age group but she did love the pictures!).
I think that there could be quite a bit of discussion based around this book with children in the classroom. I would imagine that it would work best for Year 5/6 and up. It could develop into creative writing about where their own rat might travel around the world and what adventures it might have. Mapping activities of where the rat stops off and what culture he finds in the various locations may be a possibility? If I was still in the classroom teaching, I think I could have a lot of fun with this book as a starting point.
I was lucky this book was included in my prize pack and the kids asked if mum could read them a story. Since they can't read yet, they had a look at the picture on the cover and decided that this was a good book to try. My older son got bored and walked away after a few pages but my younger boy loved the story, he enjoyed pointing to the pictures and pretending he knew what was going to come next.
Yes death is discussed but the boys didn't even bother getting upset about it, they just thought that the story and rhyme was catchy and the pictures were good. I enjoyed that it was short and not too boring, young kids (mine are 3 and 5) tend to have a very short attention span so it can be hard to engage them in long activities and that the pictures were well drawn.
I would read it to my kids again if they asked but the prize pack contained a lot of books so it might be a while before we have to start rereading some of the titles.
This is a colour illustrated children's book but to be honest I found it a little dark for my girls. Miss Five was absolutely beside herself (about her dead cat) the night I read this to the girls and I think it was because this book talks about death and aging and loss. For example "Did old Tom Strangler, dockside cat, snuff out your little star?". I think an older child might find this more enjoyable and understand it better without perhaps getting upset.
The story is rhyming and lyrical which is nice and the illustrations are very appealing and very well done. Especially when depicting the more depressing parts of the story relating to death and dereliction. The strengths of this story are definitely the illustrations of the ship rats travels around the world but it perhaps loses its appeal by the references to death and the sadness of ageing.
Because it upset my little miss so much I won't be reading it again to the girls for a while, but perhaps when they are 9 or 10 it might be good to get it out again.
Random listing from 'Books'...
"Tawhirimatea, blow winds blow,
Ra, warm us up with your sunshine glow.
Papatuanuku, we plant seeds in you.
Ua, rain helps new life come through."
"Tawhirimatea, ka pupuhi,
Whiti mai te ra, ka mahana mai.
Ono kakano, Papatuanuku,
Ka ua, tere tipu, ururua."
Sing along to this catchy Matariki song ... more...
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