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Christmas Rat
Atheneum, 2002
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The Christmas Rat

He is one weird Christmas visitor—his hair and moustache an unearthly white-blond, his voice a gruff rumble. He fills the apartment doorway. From two metal cases he produces what a boy would expect from an exterminator: Toxic roach powders and poisonous fog bombs. But a crossbow?

Eric is fascinated at first. He's been bored this snowbound vacation, and has already zapped about a zillion Zergs. Antsy, he's even sneaked a look at the Christmas presents hidden beneath his parents' bed. Then Anje Gabrail, this exterminator, appears, talking a little madly about his war against rats—about killing them.

"The worst," Anje says. And if Eric sees one in the Eden Apartments, he is to call Anje's twenty-four-hour cell phone immediately. Later that Monday, the fourth day before Christmas, a rat does appear in the building's basement—and Eric finds himself suddenly, frighteningly swept into Anje's vengeful army.

As either partner … or victim.

With only a flashlight.

Behind the Book

Avi writes: I had been asked by a writer friend of mine to write a short story for a collection of stories. I said I’d give it a try. I tried to think of something and hit upon the notion of a boy teaming up with an exterminator to rid his apartment house of a rat.

The problem was, the short story really engaged me and it got longer and longer. What’s more, I changed the focus of the story. I happen to like Christmas stories and always wanted to write one. Could I, I wondered, write a story that was a real Christmas story and yet have it be creepy, even scary?

The Christmas Rat is the result.

Awards and Honors:

Starred review, School Library Journal


“For readers who want a different kind of holiday (or anytime) novel, fast paced and mystifying, with juicy moral dilemmas underpinning the unique plot, this is a surefire selection." (School Library Journal)

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