by Lisa Fielder, illustrated by Vivienene To
First sentence: “The young rat prince knew he was taking a monumental risk.”
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Review copy given me by our Simon & Schuster rep, via my boss.
Content: There are some mild scary parts, and some mild violence, but really, it’s quite happy in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.
I have to admit that I was a little turned off by the cover. It just looks so…. I don’t know. Juvenile, maybe. Or lame, perhaps. But, either way, I was completely unprepared for the awesome found inside.
I do have to qualify the word “awesome”: if you don’t like fantasy or talking rats, you may not find this awesome at all. The thing is: usually I don’t either. I liked The Tale of Despereaux well enough, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH okay, but I didn’t like Redwall, and I have studiously stayed away from the Warriors series. So, talking animals, not exactly my thing.
But the story of a pet-store bred mouse, Hopper, who — ends up beneath the subways of Brooklyn in the sewers — got to me. Perhaps it was his insecure optimism that won my heart over. Or the fact that his sister, Pinkie, was a bully and my mom-sense (kind of like Spidey-sense) kicked in. Or perhaps it was that he found a civilization of rats underground that has a tentative peace with feral cats. Or maybe it was the prophecy of the Chosen One, and the complications that brings.
What I really enjoyed was the way that Fiedler had the rats interact with the human world. How they taught themselves to read, and how Hopper figured out the subway system. How they used cast-off items (and some scavenged ones, too) to furnish their world. It was fantastic.
Maybe, too, I was just in the mood for a straight-up fantasy adventure with talking rats and a mouse with a heart of gold. I didn’t know that I was, but I found I couldn’t put this one down.