From School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-This delightful first novel tells the tale of Carly Bean Bitters, an orphan who only sleeps during the day. Living with an uncaring aunt, the 11-year-old is lonely until a violin-playing rat named Lewis recruits her for his moonlit musical trio. She meets a number of his friends who are in danger from owls that are suddenly hostile. She also encounters the dangerous Griddlebeast, intent on destroying Whistle Root Woods. It's up to Carly; her new friend, Green; and his granny to save the precious forest. Charming black-and-white illustrations add to the overall effect of the story, which will remind readers of beloved works by Kate DiCamillo and E. B. White. Pennell offers marvelous characters, incorporates a mythical story within the story, gives readers a suspenseful plot, and creates a genuinely creepy and amoral villain. It's all rather old-fashioned and quite lovely.-B. Allison Gray, Goleta Public Library, CAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Carly Bean Bitters, 11, lives with her elderly aunt in a ramshackle house at the edge of the Whistle Root woods. Carly is lonely because her “contrary clock” is reversed—a medical oddity that makes her sleep at dawn and rise at dusk. During the summer, she rarely sees anyone. If it weren’t for the rats, especially a musically talented one named Lewis, she would have little interaction at all. Lewis, Carly learns, is the last remaining musician rat because the owls have caught and killed so many of the others. Meanwhile, Carly is hearing strange stories about whistle root trees, but it’s only after her classmate Green Pitcher gives her a book with brittle, aged documents hidden in the middle that she begins to understand the significance between the trees, the rats, and the owls. The mystery unfolds piece by piece, and with Green’s help, Carly knows she can tackle it. Boosted by numerous black-and-white drawings reminiscent of those of Garth Williams, this is an enchanting, fast-paced fantasy in the vein of E. B. White. Grades 4-7. --J. B. Petty