Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A grumpy rat and a lonely little girl

I picked up this book having heard nothing about it, simply because it looked fun. I've read picture books by Lynne Jonell, (I Need a Snake and When Mommy Was Mad come to mind), but this is her first novel for older readers.

Emmy is a good girl. Even though her parents travel constantly and barely pay any attention to her. And even though at school no one seems to notice her. And even though she has a very horrible nanny who's always making her do things Emmy dislikes (like drinking awful tonics and spending all her time after school being shuttled from one activity to the next). Mainly she's good because Miss Barmy (the awful nanny) says that her parents might want to spend more time with her if she is a good girl.

Emmy tries her best, but it is hard. And that is why she enjoys sitting near the rat who is the class pet at school - the rat is not good at all. He is a cantankerous old thing who even bit her once when she stuck her fingers through the bars of its cage.

One day when the rat is acting particularly grumpy, and Emmy is all alone in the classroom with him, she wonders aloud why he is always so mean. She is stunned when the rat replies with the question, "Why are you always so good?"

This unusual conversation is the beginning of an amazing adventure for Emmy, who discovers that in her life, things are not at all what they seem. In fact, she is perilously close to losing the things she holds most dear. Luckily she is resourceful and has a kind heart, and those qualities bring her help and support from the most unexpected places.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, with its surprising twists and turns and sheer creativity. Jonathan Bean's illustrations complemented the text beautifully, especially the flip-book drawing that progresses along the margins throughout the book, echoing the theme. I was excited to learn that, even though this is a standalone story with a satisfying conclusion, Emmy will be returning in another adventure later this year. I'll be looking forward to spending some more time with her.

Books in the Emmy series:
  1. Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat
  2. Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls (to be published in September, 2008)
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell; illustrated by Jonathan Bean (Henry Holt and Co., 2007)

Other blog reviews:
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
The Book Pile
Your Friendly Librarian


  1. This sounds like a charming story!

  2. It really was - and it was refreshingly different, too!


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