FICTION

The Rat with the Human Face

160p. (The Qwikpick Papers). Abrams/Amulet. Apr. 2015. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781419714894.
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Gr 4–6—This is the second entry in this series about a trio of middle schoolers in small-town Virginia who embark on gross and harebrained adventures. Narrator Lyle has heard rumors of a rat with a human face living in a seasonal research station outside of town. Along with friends Dave and Marilla (on whom he has a crush), Lyle contrives to ride with a busload of retirees to attend a brunch at a nearby hotel so they can sneak into the research facility and observe the rat. There are a few pleasantly quirky surprises—a convenience store crane game with a stuffed Andrew Jackson doll, a layer of social anxiety as Lyle reflects on living in a trailer park with parents who are clerks at the Quikpick, and a running device where the characters compete for points in "rhyme-jitsu." Lyle's story is told in "typed" reports, with sporadic spacing errors, on fake crumpled paper. These are interspersed with "handwritten" marginal comments and "unofficial personal" notes. A key scene depends on the peculiar narrative device of setting the story in the year 2000, meaning, as explained in a cumbersome author's note, that nobody has cell phones and their camera requires time to recharge the flash.
VERDICT This series may appeal to reluctant readers, particularly fans of Angleberger's "Origami Yoda" books.

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