The Road to Ratenburg by Joy Cowley


I personally think rats are disgusting, vile creatures. They are large, smelly and hard to exterminate. Some people enjoy them as pets, but I would be happy to never see one again.

According to the main character in this book, Spinnaker, (father of four ‘ratlets’ and devoted husband to Restina), I am a ‘humming bean with ratophobia!’ Right he is! Rats and humans cannot communicate, so if there was a book that could change your mind about rats, this could be it.

The Road to Ratenburg is a story about a rat family, their adventure, and how they worked together to overcome challenges. It could have been about any animal family, but the premise of rats gives their adventure a twist. Throughout the whole reading I was thinking, “I totally get the humans hating the rats, but at the same time I am actually growing to like them. I hope the humans don’t get them!” By the end of the book I adored them.


Spinnaker, Restina and their four ratlets: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, have lost their house to a demolition, so they are off to find a new home. They could have settled in an alley or under the train station, but they have others ideas so they decide to find the legendary city of Ratenburg. Ratenburg is a paradise for rats, founded by the Pipe Piper in a valley, deep in the mountains. Will they get there? Will they survive all the dangers and obstacles along the way?

Spinnaker is a devoted husband and father, and he is totally faithful to his family. Retsina is wise and patient, while the ratlets are loyal and helpful. They are a wonderful family and I enjoyed reading about their team spirit and commitment to each other during their adventures.

“When we are together we feel that we can survive anything. That day we stared at the wrecked building and were glad, so very glad, that we were all safe. We had each other. Our home was gone, but we would find somewhere else to live.” Page 9

The story isn’t without character development and value lessons as well. As they meet other animals, they expect prejudice, but instead find kindness and companionship. Spinnaker learns not to judge by appearances and he discovers that he is not always right. The conversations between the characters are natural and there were a few laugh-out-loud moments as well.


Joy Cowley is an excellent author and we have been reading her books for years. She has written many books for New Zealand children – from the very young to young adult novels. I am sure you and your children will really enjoy this story and I recommend it for ages eight and upwards.

The issue we have reviewed is 192 pages long, softcover with black and white illustrations by Gavin Bishop throughout.

ISBN: 9781776570751
Publisher: Gecko Press, New Zealand, 2016

Purchase the book from…

Price starting from $14.25 AUS

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