A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Raffie on the Run, by Jacqueline Resnick with illustrations by Joe Sutphin, is a fantasy-adventure novel set in New York City with animal characters who talk and have feelings and experiences kids can relate to. Most of the main characters are default male -- Raffie, his brother Oggie, pigeon Kaz, and the majority of the supporting characters. In some scenes, animals attack other animals, and Kaz, who has only half a wing, is sometimes taunted as "Stumpy." Still, the messages of inclusion are strong and clear: home and family are important, you shouldn't let your differences stop you, and though you may at first think someone's different from you, you could very well end up being friends.
What's the story?
In RAFFIE ON THE RUN, Raffie's a young rat who lives with his family in the walls of a Brooklyn subway station. His little brother Oggie, who looks up to him and believes his tall tales, foolishly ventures out to the subway platform during rush hour. When a schoolboy captures Oggie to bring to class, Raffie leaps to action to rescue his brother. He figures out that the boy's school is on Central Park West, and though he has no idea how to get there, he's helped on his journey by a pigeon with one wing, a show dog in love with a gruff watchdog, a well-spoken cockroach, and others.
Is it any good?
Just as the viral internet sensation Pizza Rat grabbed the pizza and ran with it, this animal fantasy opens with a New York City subway rat and a slice, and races off on a tasty adventure. In Raffie on the Run, the city itself is vividly a character, though the main characters are animals, including a rat, pigeon, cockroach, show dog, and falcon, with humans making only minor appearances. There's humor when Raffie misinterprets or has a rat perspective on human events. For instance, he calls the food-stuffed garbage can on the subway platform a "treasure chest," and the custodian who empties it, "the thief." Author Jacqueline Resnick ensures that the story is relatable to contemporary readers by referencing social media and having animals talk about selfies, emojis, hashtags, and viral videos.
Though the author used to live in Brooklyn, some of the references to New York seem stereotypical. The huckster squirrel's a character who'd more likely be encountered by tourists than natives. And New Yorkers will know that a tall luxury building wouldn't have an outside fire escape climbing to the 32nd floor. But these small details will fly over the heads of young readers, who'll get caught up in the quest and active adventure. The book's also sprinkled throughout with lovely, lively black-and-white illustrations by Joe Sutphin, adding extra dimension, fun, and animation to the already lively story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the adventure and quest in Raffie on the Run. Have you ever had to find your way to someplace you'd never been before? Did you get lost? How did you find your way?
Would you want to actually meet these animals -- rats, cockroaches -- in real life? Do they seem different and more likable in a story? Why do you think the author made her main character a rat?
Are you a city dweller, or do you live in the suburbs or the country? What parts of the story did you relate to? Were any of the details of the setting hard to understand?
- Author: Jacqueline Resnick
- Illustrator: Joe Sutphin
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
- Publication date: February 13, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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