A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
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?
- Author: W.H. Beck
- Illustrator: Brian Lies
- Genre: Animals
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
- Publication date: September 4, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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