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Authors: Maureen McCarthy

When You Wish upon a Rat

BOOK: When You Wish upon a Rat
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E
leven-year-old Ruth Craze is pretty sure she's stuck in the wrong life. Her father is an absentminded inventor and her mother is a flighty artist, so it's always reliable Ruth who ends up doing the dishes, paying the bills, and finding the lost socks. Her brothers relentlessly tease her, and her friends have just decided she's not cool enough to be a part of their group anymore. When Rodney the Rat—a slightly sinister stuffed animal that was a gift from her favorite aunt—suggests a way out, Ruth is ready to risk everything. Three wishes. Three chances to create her perfect life … A million ways to get it wrong.

In this heartwarming novel, beloved Australian author Maureen McCarthy offers a hilarious tale about the sweet rewards and eerie dangers of getting what you've wished for.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE
: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

McCarthy, Maureen, 1953–

When you wish upon a rat / by Maureen McCarthy.

p. cm.

Summary: Ready to swap her disappointing family and school life for something better, eleven-year-old Ruth Craze is granted three wishes from Rodney the Rat, a slightly sinister stuffed animal that was a gift from her favorite aunt.

ISBN 978-1-4197-0161-0

[1. Wishes—Fiction. 2. Family life—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.M47841245Wh 2012

[Fic]—dc23

2012015626

Text copyright © 2010 Maureen McCarthy

Book design by Robyn Ng

Published in 2012 by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS. All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher. Amulet Books and Amulet Paperbacks are registered trademarks of Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

First published in 2010 in Australia by Allen & Unwin under the title
Careful What You Wish For
.

Amulet Books are available at special discounts when purchased in quantity for premiums and promotions as well as fundraising or educational use. Special editions can also be created to specification. For details, contact [email protected] or the address below.

115 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011
www.abramsbooks.com

my two totally different but wonderful sisters, Michalea and Patrice.

And in memory of Gabrielle, our beautiful sister who lived and died with such faith and optimism.

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

About the Author

before they saw them. The rickety wooden footbridge would shudder a little, and there would be a clanking along the tracks getting louder and louder, building to a roar.

Ruth and Mary Ellen considered it to be good luck when a train passed. They would grin in anticipation, hold hands, and shut their eyes.

“Here it comes, Ruth! Here it comes!”

“And it's coming for us!”

“For you and me, kiddo!”

“Make a wish!”

“You too. Make a wish!”

Ruth had been scared witless the first time. She'd clung to her aunt and screamed as the long train hurtled by, hissing and shaking beneath her like a weird, angry animal. It still sent a shiver of fear down her spine. All those fast-moving tons of steel racing past, only a few meters from her body!

When the train had gone, they would turn to each other.

“What did you wish for, Ruthie?”

“You first.”

“An oak tree growing through my living room floor,” Mary Ellen might say.

“Hmmm.” Ruth grinned and tried to imagine it.

“What about you?”

“Finding a million dollars in a hole in the backyard when I get home.”

“Wouldn't that be fantastic! Did you get another in?”

The aim was to make three detailed wishes before the train had gone, but they usually only managed two. Somehow there was never enough time. It was against the rules to work them out in advance.

“That red bathing suit.”

“Oh yes, the red bathing suit. Want to know my second?”

“What?”

“To take you to China with me next year.”

“Oh!” Just the idea of it made Ruth giddy. “
Please!

“We'll see. We'll see.”

Not long after that day, Ruth and her aunt were in luck. Two trains were coming from different directions, and they were going to pass each other not far from the bridge. Surely this would be a day for three wishes.

“What did you wish for?” Ruth yelled over the clanking of the first train.

“Let's wait until the next one's gone.”

But by the time the next train had thundered by, Mary Ellen was bent over double and her face was white. She was holding her side and gasping a little, as though she couldn't breathe.

“What's the matter?” Ruth said in alarm.

“Just a pain,” her aunt whispered, leaning both elbows on the wooden railing.

“Did you eat something weird?”

“No, no … I'll be all right in a minute. Let me have a little rest.” She squatted down and peered through the railings, and Ruth knelt beside her.

“Did you make a wish?” Mary Ellen asked.

But Ruth only shrugged; something about a big bedroom, painted in yellow with secret stairs leading up onto the roof, but it didn't matter anymore. Mary Ellen's face was so very white and there was a film of perspiration along her top lip, even though it was winter.

“Let's go home.”

Mary Ellen lived alone in a big old apartment block near the city. Her flat was three floors up and overlooked a wonderful sprawling park that ran alongside the river. It was always
immaculately neat, orderly, and
interesting
. There were things from all over the world dotted around the place. Most were from her many trips to China: painted stones and vases, figurines, paintings, and tapestries, and usually a story behind each one. Ruth loved nothing better than lying on the floor listening to stories of her aunt's travels.

“Couldn't I live here with you?” Ruth asked as they walked up the steps to the front door. “It's so loud and messy all the time at home. I love it here.”

“Oh, Ruthie,” said Mary Ellen, squeezing her hand. “I have something for you.”

“What is it?” Ruth asked. As far as she was concerned, it was enough just being there for the day instead of going to the football match with the rest of her family. She hadn't been expecting a present.

“Come and see.” Her aunt ushered her inside.

Mary Ellen disappeared into her bedroom for a while, eventually emerging with a very old and battered package. It was wrapped in faded brown paper and tied with string and was about twice the size of an ordinary shoe box.

“For you.” Mary Ellen handed it to Ruth.

“Thanks!” Ruth took the box and looked at her aunt shyly. “It's old.”

Her aunt nodded. “I was around your age when I got it,” she said. “You going to open it?”

“Yes.” Opening parcels was Ruth's favorite part of presents, so she took her time, while her aunt watched. She cut the string and carefully peeled off the heavy, sticky tape. As she unwrapped the box, she noticed a lot of faded Chinese lettering printed on the outside. A rush of excitement hit her.

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