From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6–Rats and humans have had a very long love/hate relationship as readers discover in this lively and informative overview of the history and behavior of the widely encountered rodent. Emphasizing the animal's capabilities for survival, Marrin offers both anecdotal accounts of human/rat encounters and impressive statistics. Rats have occupied the Earth far longer than humans, and they compete prodigiously for the world's food supply, earning their reputation as major pests to humankind. On the other hand, they provide an important source of protein for the many humans who eat them worldwide. (Not a pleasing bit of information for readers who have loved them as pets.) The nine short chapters are set in a handsome slim book with striking black-and-white scratchboard illustrations and muted red framing on many pages. Marrin touches briefly on physical characteristics as he explains the veneration of rats in some cultures, attempts to eradicate them in others, and rats as both carriers of disease and valued subjects of medical research. It's a different sort of discussion and format for this well-known historian and biographer and one that he has clearly enjoyed, as will a wide variety of nonfiction readers and animal fans. There's a bibliography of adult sources and children's nonfiction as well as a listing of literary works featuring rats.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
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Gr. 3-5. Children fond of nonfiction that is laced with discomfiting--or downright revolting--information will happily fall upon this anecdotal look at the shared history of the animal kingdom's greatest survivors. Along with portraying rats in many roles, from pests to pets, Marrin (best known for his histories for older readers) introduces rodent relatives and provides glimpses of rats' habits and innate intelligence, as well as their history as disease carriers, lab animals, predators, and ("Grilled Rat, Bordeaux Style," anyone?) even entrees. Red highlights (including red eyes on the rats and red borders on some of the pages) add an ominous tone to Mordan's many naturalistic, deeply shadowed illustrations, which have the look of wood engravings. Although there are no source notes, Marrin closes with short lists of relevant fiction and nonfiction. Richard Conniff's Rats! The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
(2002) offers sometimes-arresting photographs and more specific information, but this book makes a pleasantly icky additional purchase. John PetersCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved