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Children's Book Review: The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson

An Air Warrior and prolific writer with over 200 published short stories and 14 books on fiction



English literature covers a vast field for adults. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of children’s books. There are very few writers who write exclusively for children. Thus when a talented writer like Julia Catherine Donaldson MBE appears on the scene she needs to be appreciated. Julia Donaldson is a British writer, playwright and performer. She was born in 1948 in London and studied Drama and French at Bristol University.

She started her career as a teacher and later took to writing and performing songs. Along with her husband Malcolm, she directed two musicals for children. She has written many books for children. One of her more famous books is titled “The Highway Rat” which will delight children. The book also has excellent illustrations that sustain the interest of a child.



“The Highway Rat” is an adventure story for children. Generally, children love tales of adventure and this book will not disappoint them. The hero of the story is a greedy rat who is keen to rob food from other animals. Thus the rat grasps food from a simple rabbit, a carefree squirrel as well as a group of ants. Julia goes on to describe how the rat lures an innocent duck and robs the poor bird of its food.

The beauty of the book is in its presentation. Julia adopts a style that will appeal to young children and lure them into reading the book again and again. Illustrations always have a special meaning for children and the book has a string of excellent illustrations. The illustrations not only depict the story but have a special appeal for children who can correlate the illustrations with the story, thus building up interest.

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The story has a moral and at the end when the rat loses everything to the witty duck, the writer brings out the simple fact for children that crime does not pay. In the end, the duck having got all his food back gallops away on a horse, leaving the rat high and dry. This delights young children who do not like an evil person winning. This book by Julia is actually inspired by the classic poem “The Highwayman". This is a famous poem authored by Alfred Noyes (1880-1958). It is the genius of Julia that she has turned the poem into an excellent tale about food and greed for children.

The text is simple and easy to understand. This can be a great help as it can serve as a foundation for introducing year 2 or 3 children to poetry and adjectives in literacy lessons.

Julia Robertson deserves credit for writing this lovely tale of adventure for children. She richly deserves the 2011–2013 Children’s Laureate title.



Alfred Noyes who wrote the famous poem The Highwayman could never have imagined that an English writer would have the ability to convert a pure love poem into a rollicking tale for children. Julia Donaldson aided by illustrator Axel Scheffler has created a lovely tale for children and created the character of a Highway Rat who goes with the refrain,

Give me your pastries and puddings!
Give me your chocolate and cake!
For I am the Rat of the Highway,
and whatever I want I take.

Julia was born in 1948 and married in 1972. Julia has 184 published works, 64 of which are widely circulated and sold in bookstalls. The remaining 120 include her Songbirds phonic reading scheme books that are part of the school curriculum and showcased by Oxford University Press's Oxford Reading Tree. Her other famous books are The Hospital Dog (2020), The Cook and the King(2018), The Gruffalo (1999), and many more.

© 2021 MG Singh emge

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