The Rat Prince by Bridget Hodder is an inventive and charming reimagining of the Cinderella tale. The story is told from the point of view of both Rose (Cinderella) and Char, the Rat Prince and leader of the rat kingdom in Lancastyr Manor, Rose’s home. With a cast of characters that includes a kooky family goddess (fairy godmother) and a human prince who is less than charming, The Rat Prince is an adventure for readers. As a well-crafted and insightful take on a classic tale, Hodder’s novel is a wonderful addition to the fairytale fold and an instructive study for aspiring middle grade writers.
Multiple Points Of View
Writing a novel from dual points of view presents the author with the daunting tasks of mastering multiple voices and transitioning smoothly between them. Hodder handles these POV challenges with ease.
Char, the valiant prince, tells his own story and provides insight into the unseen rat kingdom. Readers learn about rat customs, rat politics, and the history of the rats’ interactions with the human world. A fun quirk is that the rats are all named after favorite foods. There’s Prince Char, named, in his words, “in honor of the way I like my meats”; his royal councilor, Swiss; Char’s mother, Lady Apricot; (my personal favorite) the Beef Brothers – Beef One, Beef Two, and Beef Three – who serve as Char’s “muscle”; and many others.
Since Char spends much time observing Rose in Lancastyr Manor, he also narrates Rose’s trials and tribulations as the disfavored member of the household. Often Char wonders at the motivation behind Rose’s actions, something Rose then clarifies in her graceful narration of the same scenes. In this telling and retelling, Hodder is able to switch between points of view using the overlap in scene narration to ensure that the transition is not jarring for readers.
From Rose’s point of view, readers gain insight into her feelings of loss and despair over her mother’s death, her father’s descent into dementia, and the rise of her mean-tempered stepmother to lady of the manor. Since the tale is told in Rose’s own voice, she is also given more agency as a character than in the classic Cinderella story. This is a welcome change in a genre in which often “things just happen” to the female protagonist.
Action: Practice writing from multiple POVs by narrating a real life event or conversation from your own POV, and then from the POV of a friend or family member. Compare the similarities and differences in how the two voices tell the story.
A New Spin on an Age Old Tale
With Char’s character and the [spoiler alert] Char-Rose love story, Hodder successfully puts a fresh spin on one of the most well known fairytales. In addition to the more empowered Cinderella and the delightful glimpse into the world of the rats, Hodder gives readers a non-traditional Cinderella ending with more twists and turns than the classic story, but which will still satisfy fans of a fairy-tale romance.
Hodder’s fresh approach to the classic supporting characters is also welcome. Ashiira, Rose’s family goddess, shows a bit of unexpected sass when she chides Rose for not choosing her one wish wisely. And one of Rose’s evil stepsisters is not evil at all, but instead adoring of Rose (there is still an evil one for the traditionalists). Hodder’s inventive rewrites of secondary characters is makes readers feel like they are meeting old friends (or enemies) for the first time.
Action: Dust off scenes from an old work-in-progress and rewrite them with a fresh twist. To liven up the story, pick a new ending or develop secondary characters in unexpected ways. #mgcraft Click To Tweet
Overall, The Rat Prince is excellent proof that, with literary skill, writers can teach an old tale brilliant new tricks!
Jill Diamond has loved children’s literature for as long as she can remember, thanks to her school librarian mother and long, cold winters in Maine. She presently lives in San Francisco, where, when she’s not writing, she hangs out with her husband and their son. You can find her at jilldiamondbooks.com