02 January 2008

2008--The Year of the Rat

This was originally intended to be a "What I am Reading" entry with a short list of rat faves, when I made the connection that 2008 is indeed the Year of the Rat. So how fitting that the first novel tucked away in the new year is Judy Cox's The Mystery of the Burmese Bandicoot. This is the first of, what will presumably be many, Tails of Frederick and Ishbu (yes, 'tails', not simply 'tales'.) Cox tells the story of two ratty brothers who escape (only as a matter of self-preservation) from their home in a fifth-grade classroom. In an absolutely fantastic sequence of events they find themselves traveling half-way around the world in search of the fabled Burmese Bandicoot, a jeweled figurine said to hold great powers and able to destroy mankind. The action is pretty much non-stop from start to finish with short chapters to keep the attention of reluctant readers. Cox's knowledge of rats is evident from the very start, and her detailed Author's Note reveals the extent of her research into all things ratty. Of course, as a school teacher herself, she has plenty of first-hand experience.

While Children's literature is sometimes unkind to rats (Brian Jacques' Redwall comes to mind,) there are plenty of titles which show rats to be the clever, sensitive animals that they are. Among them:

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (O'Brien, Robert C)
Space Station Rat (Daley, Michael J)The sequel, Rat Trap, is due out in March.
Vasco Leader of His Tribe (Bondoux, Anne-Laure)
The Christmas Rat (Avi)
Ratspell (Mounter, Paddy)

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