Malcolm at Midnight
W. H. Beck
Brian Lies, illustrator
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012
From the dust jacket, “When Malcolm (a smaller than average rat) arrives as the fifth grade pet at McKenna School, he revels in the attention, the Pop-Tart crumbs, and his new Comf-E-Cube. He also meets the Midnight Academy, a secret society of classroom pets that keeps the nutters (kids) out of trouble. After all, everybody knows “a lot happens in a school when the teachers aren’t looking.” There’s just one problem. Have you heard? Rats have a terrible reputation! So when the Academy assumes Malcolm is a mouse, he doesn’t exactly speak up. Then the Academy’s leader, a glasses-wearing iguana named Aggy, disappears and the Academy smells a rat . . . a dirty rat fink, to be specific. Now Malcolm must use all of his ratty persistence to prove his innocence, get Aggy back under her heat lamp—and find out if it’s possible to be a critter of valor and merit even if you’re a rat. This mystery unravels at midnight in this rollicking tale of fur-raising adventure … .”
In this wonderful book for middle-graders we meet some really great—and not so great—characters! Along with Aggy, there’s a rabbit bully whose name is Honey Bunny (but don’t you dare call him that!), a brother and sister hamster team named Jessie James and Billy the Kid, a big fish named Oscar, a barn owl named Beert, and a psychopathic cat named Snip. The mystery of ‘where is Aggy?’ is the central theme; Malcolm learning to accept that he is a rat, with all that it entails, is the second main theme. The story of Snip is a sad one and unfinished in the end, at least to my liking. But from the pet store to the final scene, the story was so much FUN! I had absolutely no idea where it would go next and that’s my favorite kind of book!