Review Blog

Jan 30 2020

The year of the rat by Charles Hope

cover image

Illus. by Jess Racklyeft. Wild Dog, 2019. ISBN 9781742035789. 32pp.
(Age: 4+) A timid and shy creature, Rat is happy with her costume for the school play. She is to play a tree and has made an appropriate costume, happy to be in the background. But on the day, disaster strikes. Sheep breaks a tap in the bathroom and the stage is flooded. Rabbit trips over a drum, spilling the pots of glue, which cover his fur and worst of all, Tiger, the star of the show, comes to school with a ferocious cold. Cancellation is spoken of.
But shy Rat is also imaginative and capable, and organises the group into making use of things they have not thought about. She raids the art room and brings out cardboard and paint, bottles, string and tins and with the help of the others turns these into useful props and instruments. Going outside they take over the playground as their stage. Now only the star of the show is missing.
Rat has been to every rehearsal and knows the words by heart, so donning a tiger skin she steps onto the stage and saves the day.
This lovely story of courage, of overcoming difficulties, will have appeal to a younger audience, especially those who like Rat are timid and unsure of themselves. The unusual illustrations will intrigue readers as they look at the detail and follow the image of Rat as she changes from someone at ease in the background to taking over the main stage. 2020 being the Year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac makes this an appropriate story for the coming year, especially around Chinese New Year (25th January). Included at the end of the book are several pages outlining the 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac, encouraging readers to work out which animal represents the year they were born.
Themes: Rats, New Year, Chinese Zodiac, Courage.
Fran Knight

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