From School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-In this fantasy set firmly in a realistic world, Ruth, who is responsible and organized, feels that she doesn't belong in her lackadaisical family as they don't appreciate her. In addition, she has been rejected by her group of friends at school for not being cool enough. Ruth's beloved aunt gives her the gift of a mysterious stuffed rat, which is lost on the side of the road during a scuffle with her brother. After her aunt dies, and with the encouragement of a boy in her class, Ruth returns to find the rat and discovers that he is magical: he gives her three chances to choose a different life. In each case, she is able to stay in that version for up to a day, but before the day is up, she has to find a hidden door if she wishes to escape. If she fails to do so, she will remain in that reality forever. The rat's ability to understand Ruth's desires are somewhat questionable, and Ruth lands up first in a "perfect" family, then in an orphanage. Through these magical experiences she grows in wisdom and understanding. The predictable ending is enlivened by the suggestion that Ruth was able to influence the present during her time in an alternate life set in the past, and by the side plot about her friend who is being abused by his father. Middle grade readers who like their fantasy with a good dose of realistic fiction will appreciate this one.-Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York Cityα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Ruth thinks maybe she was put in the wrong family. She longs for a normal, organized existence and a nice home, but when she loses Rodney, a mysterious stuffed rat given to her by her aunt, life gets worse. Her aunt hinted at Rodney’s powers but gave no details before she died of cancer. Ruth thinks perhaps Rodney is the key to happiness, so she and her strange friend Howard travel back to where she lost him. At this point the book shifts from realistic fiction, with its themes of family and grief, to magical realism. Rodney reappears, only now he talks, walks, and listens to Ruth’s complaints. He offers her three chances to create her perfect life, but when the wishes go awry, Ruth scrambles to correct things before time runs out. The style mash-up works, creating an engaging look at friendship and family. Flashbacks give this a somewhat complex story structure, making the book best suited for confident readers. Hand to fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline (2002). Grades 3-6. --Suzanne Harold