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Authors: Mary Hanson

How to Save Your Tail

BOOK: How to Save Your Tail
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Copyright © 2007 by Mary Hanson
Illustrations copyright © 2007 by John Hendrix

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Schwartz & Wade Books and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

www.randomhouse.com/kids

Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools,
visit us at
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hanson, Mary Elizabeth. How to save your tail: if you are a rat nabbed by cats who really like stories about magic spoons, wolves with snout-warts, big, hairy chimney trolls … and cookies too/Mary Hanson; illustrated by John Hendrix.—1st ed.
p. cm.
Summary: When he is captured by two of the queen’s cats, Bob the rat prolongs his life by sharing fresh-baked cookies and stories of his ancestors, whose escapades are remarkably similar to those of well-known fairy tale heroes.
eISBN: 978-0-307-55690-5
[1. Storytelling—Fiction. 2. Rats—Fiction. 3. Cats—Fiction. 4. Characters in literature—Fiction. 5. Fairy tales.] I. Hendrix, John, ill. II. Title.

PZ8.H1968How 2007
[Fic]

                                                 2006003833

v3.1

For Bob and Stephanie
—M.H.

To Andrea and Jack
—J.H.

Once Upon a Time

O
nce upon a time, in a grand castle, there lived a rat named Bob, who was fond of baking and wild about reading.

Now, baking can be dangerous for a rat. Paws get burned and tails get caught in eggbeaters all the time.

But it was his love of books that almost killed
Bob. The trouble tiptoed up on him one afternoon, while his cookies were browning in the oven. As Bob sunned himself on the kitchen porch, he watched a bee flit about the garden, from rose to rose and lily to lily, landing at last on the garden bench—right next to
a book
.

The rat sat up, tail twitching and whiskers whisking. Was it a new book? Or was it one of his favorites that he had read a hundred times? Either way, Bob was happier than a pig in a puddle. He had to have it.

Quick as a wink, he leapt from the porch to the path. He was so anxious to devour the words that he never saw the Queen’s cats in the rosebushes, waiting to devour him.

VOOOMP!
Something had grabbed him—something with sharp claws and bad breath. Bob smelled a cat. It was all over but the chewing.

He opened one eye and saw the orange stripes and treacherous teeth of … Brutus.

Then Muffin pounced into view. She
was huge, fluffy, and white as bones, except for her chin, which was stained with the blood of her last meal—a mouse, perhaps. Or a small bear.

“Head or tail?” asked Brutus.

“Head,” said Muffin. “I had the tail last time.”

“Okay. Grab on. When I count three,
pull
!”

Muffin grabbed. Bob squirmed. Brutus, just before counting, sniffed.

“Hey!” he said. “What’s that smell?”

“Coofies?” guessed Muffin, talking with her mouth full.

“Butter cookies,” said the rat. He tried to sound as casual as possible, in spite of his delicate position.

“Where?” asked Brutus.

“In the oven,” squeaked the rat. “I’m
testing a new recipe: double butter with cream cheese filling and a sinful blend of spice, mint chips, and sugar.”

The cats drooled.

“I’d hate for them to burn,” added Bob.

“Me too,” said Muffin, dropping the rat with a thunk.

“Okay, Mack,” said Brutus, letting go of Bob’s tail. “Get them out. But don’t try anything funny.”

“Yes, sir,” said Bob. “But—but—”

“But
what
?”

“My name’s not Mack, sir.”

“It is now,” said Brutus.
“Go!”

So Bob
—Mack
to the cats—wobbled to his feet, shook off the cat slobber, and scurried into the kitchen. The cats tailed him.

The kitchen was hot. The cats were hungry. And Bob—aka Mack—was quick.

He poured two saucers of milk and served the cookies, warm from the oven, on the Queen’s finest china.

He held his breath as the cats tasted.

“Yum,” said Muffin.

“Not bad,” said Brutus.

“Do you really think so?” asked Bob. “My
great-great-grandfather’s were better—before he lost his spoon.”

“His spoon?” asked Brutus.

“His magic spoon,” said Bob. “But that’s another story.”

“Do tell, Mack!” said Muffin.

“No way,” said Brutus. “It’s time for the main course.” He snatched the rat up by the scruff of his neck and dipped him in milk.

“Not yet, Brutus!” cried Muffin. “I want to hear the story!”

Brutus looked at Muffin. “Well, okay,” he said. “But after the story we eat him.”

Brutus dropped Bob, without ceremony, on an empty plate.

Then Bob, with great ceremony, brushed himself off, assumed his best storytelling posture, and began to tell about the day his great-great-grandfather Sherman climbed the beanstalk.

Sherman and the Beanstalk

I
n the days when a fellow needed a quick mind, a strong will, and a keen sense of adventure just to survive, there lived an extraordinary rat—my great-great-grandpa Sherman Rattus Norvegicus. Sherman (for short) had all those qualities plus a sharp nose and fast feet. And he did pretty well, thank you. Why, in
just one week, he escaped an evil Queen who tested bad apples on good rats; dodged three bears chasing a small blond girl; and sidestepped twelve dancing Princesses who nearly trampled him to death practicing the bunny hop. Finally, he found safety in a run-down cottage with a widow and her son, Jack.

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