Malcolm at Midnight

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Malcolm at Midnight Book Poster Image
Exciting story of misunderstood rat who becomes a hero.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn a bit about different species of animals and their characteristics, such as the fact that Aggy, the iguana matriarch, is cold-blooded and can't survive without her heat lamp. Malcolm's talent for reading and writing comes in handy many times.

Positive Messages

Malcolm overcomes prejudice to show everyone that he's a rat of merit and valor; individual talents come into play at just the right moment to save the day; the joys and responsibilities of friendship are emphasized; the importance of caring for animals properly is clear.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Malcolm's determination to prove himself a good rat leads to many brave and helpful deeds. The other classroom pets take their responsibilities to the school and one another very seriously. The school's adults are benign, as are the kids, brainy Amelia and class clown Jovahn, who befriend Malcolm.


Malcolm escapes being snake food but faces other dangers, such as being devoured by other predators and being drowned by an enemy; he also picks up a few injuries in the course of the story. An insane cat is bent on killing the animals and destroying the school, and Aggy the iguana is kidnapped. An owl tells how the cat killed his babies and imprisoned him.


Mild romance between two adult human characters.


Malcolm and his fellow animals use a lot of oaths and expletives like "By claw!" and "Gristle!"


Frequent allusions to the book The Tale of Despereaux, which is popular with kids.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there's lots to love about Malcolm at Midnight, the story of a classroom rat who must prove his merit and valor. And there's little to worry about, aside from the fact that some of the animal characters are in ongoing danger and the occasional bit of youthful hijinks like a rodent raid on the kitchen. Kids, especially those who've had to deal with being wrongly judged by others, will relate to the well-meaning little rat with unsuspected talents who's trying to do the right thing and overcome prejudice in those who've only met conniving, self-serving, bad rats. Kids will also love his growing friendship with two fifth graders.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byyorkiegirlz November 21, 2015

Recommend this book

Malcolm at Midnight is an exciting book that uses some scare tactics to engage the reader. I wish I could learn more about snip, she was interesting. I like how... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old January 4, 2014

The best book ever!

This is a really good book with a good role model named Malcolm. This mischievous handsome rat is a very good role model. Everyone should give this a 5 star rat... Continue reading

What's the story?

The smallest feeder rat in the pet store, young Malcolm is routinely passed over by seekers of snake food, and when a gullible fifth-grade teacher who thinks he's a mouse buys him as the class pet, he finds himself in an exciting new world. Soon all the other class pets introduce Malcolm to their secret society, whose mission is to keep the school running smoothly and keep the humans out of trouble. Still passing as a mouse, he quickly learns that all the other animals don't like rats at all, believing they're thieving Rat Finks who care for no one but themselves. Through a number of misadventures, Malcolm tries to redeem the reputation of his species. In the process, he befriends a couple of the fifth graders, to say nothing of a predator who wants to devour him, and displays unexpected talents.

Is it any good?

Beck tells a fast-moving tale with lots of appealing characters of many species, who come to life in delightful, detailed, expressive black-and-white illustrations. Rather than succumb to excess cutesiness, Beck has her characters deal with compelling real-life issues. Aside from the ongoing challenge of not getting eaten by the crazed resident cat, Malcolm has to deal with prejudice against his species and the joys and challenges of friendship with kids and animals, all while learning the ways of a completely unknown world.

Told in the voice of brainy Amelia, one of Malcolm's fifth-grade friends, and addressed to the teacher, the tale also includes informative, sometimes comical footnotes with additional details about the plot or the incidentals of school life -- like the time that rat-hating Kiera went on the nature walk in jeweled flip-flops or when Skylar melted crayons all over the radiator.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the idea that someone's true self comes out at midnight -- that is, when no one's watching. Do you agree? Why or why not?

  • Why do you think stories of mice and rats are so popular? Have you read other ones, such as Stuart Little, The Tale of Despereaux, or the Redwall series?

  • Have you been in a situation like Malcolm's, where people thought badly of you because of something that wasn't true or had nothing to do with you? How did you feel? How did you deal with it?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventures and animal stroies

Themes & Topics

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