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The Highway Rat

Julia Donaldson Axel Scheffler
Age 5-7

Robbing everyone on the highway of any food they carry, the Highway Rat continues terrorises animal travellers until a very clever duck gets the better of him and eventually he sees the error of his ways. You may recognise the style of this poem which echoes the pattern and rhythm of the famous classic poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes exactly. The rhyming and repeated text makes it great fun for children to join in with the words and there is plenty to talk about in the story. Another brilliant collaboration between Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.


Share the story

Read aloud
Before you start reading the book look at the cover illustration and title together. What does your child think will happen in this story? They maybe unsure what a highway is and this may be a good point to talk about highwaymen – or you could do so later after enjoying the story together.

Read the story as far as the lines about the animals growing thinner and thinner. How does your child think the animals feel? Is there anything the animals can do?

Continue reading to the end of the story.

Join in
When you read aloud again encourage your child to join in with the repeated choruses.

Talk about the book

  • What does your child think about the way the duck tricked the rat?

  • Are children puzzled by anything? For example the meaning of words or phrases such as ‘stand and deliver’ or ‘halt’.

  • What does your child know about highwaymen?

  • Do children know any more stories like this?

Watch the story read aloud

Things to make and do

Dress up
Help your child to dress up as a highway rat use a piece of cloth as a cloak. You could make a mask for your child out of card. For instructions follow link here and scroll to ‘Method 2’

Play the story
Choose a scene from the story and act it out together, you can improvise an imaginary conversation or use some of the words from the story.

Make a poster
Make a wanted poster for the Highway Rat. Talk about what to include such as a description and picture of the highway rat, reward and who to contact.

Find out more

Read more stories by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

The Gruffalo
The Snail and the Whale
Room on the Broom

Find out about echoes
The clever duck tricks the highway rat using echoes. Find out about more about echoes. See here and here

Find out more about highwaymen here

The Highwayman poem
The story of the Highway Rat is based on The Highwayman, a classic poem by Alfred Noyes see here.