The Rat with the Human Face: The Qwikpick Papers, Book 2

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Rat with the Human Face:  The Qwikpick Papers, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Second fun adventure is creepier, less gross.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Andrew Jackson was the seventh president. "Pervert" is defined, but the sexual implication is deliberately avoided.

Positive Messages

Going off on your own can be dangerous and gets you in serious trouble.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lyle, Dave, and Marilla are good kids, but their determination to have an adventure leads them to poor decisions such as lying about what they're up to and going off through the woods unsupervised. Their friendship remains strong. Dave and Marilla reluctantly break rules and face the consequences. Lyle learns that if he had just talked about his feelings in the first place, he could have saved himself a lot of frustration.

Violence

Some bullying incidents involving destruction of property. Brief mention in a story of rats eating a man's face. Creepy, scary adventure and suspense in a dark basement. Gross, creepy picture of specimens in jars.

Sex

Lyle and Marilla hold hands and admit they "like" each other in an exchange of notes. Mention of a neighbor who "has a lot of ladies over."

Language

"Poop," "crap." An adult's swearing is written with comic-style symbols. Name-calling: "pervert."

Consumerism

Care Bears, Simpsons dolls, NASCAR, Wendy's, iPhones. Taco Bell, and Wal-Mart several times. Frequent references to previous adventure sometimes feel like plugs for the first book. Introductory note from the author mentions his Origami Yoda books.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention of Qwikpick employees smoking; no smoking described. Lyle's father thinks Larry drinks too much.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Rat with the Human Face is the second book of a planned trilogy by popular big-kid writer Tom Angleberger (Oragami Yoda series). The story picks up a few months after their visit to the poop fountain, and frequent reference to it sometimes feels like a plug for the first book in the series, Poop Fountain!. This adventure's not scatological at all, but there's plenty of gross-out humor as the kids quest to find the title creature. A dark basement is creepy and scary, and a bully destroys property. First-love dynamics advance to hand-holding and talking about "liking that way." The three friends' diverse financial situations are a good backdrop for thinking about socioeconomic issues, such as being looked down on for living in a trailer park.

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What's the story?

Qwikpick Adventure Society founders and members Lyle, Dave, and Marilla are wondering what their next adventure could be when they overhear a man talking about how he saw a rat with a human face at a research station up in the mountains. The kids immediately decide they have to see it too. But it's an hour's drive away, so figuring out how to get there without asking any parents to drive them puts their creativity and planning skills to the test. Once they make it into the basement where the rat was seen, they become trapped with no way out. If they ever make it out of the basement, will the Adventure Society -- and their friendship -- survive?

Is it any good?

THE RAT WITH THE HUMAN FACE continues the fun for big kids and tweens, this time with an emphasis on the creepy. Kids who like being grossed out will revel in the prospect of finding the title creature and the creepy specimen jars in the research lab. The heroes are from refreshingly diverse backgrounds, and kids will be encouraged to think about how we look at those with little money.

The book's design, with its mixture of typewriter type, handwritten notes, photos, and illustrations, is engaging and will lure reluctant readers. Kids really will relate to the believable, relatable main characters and will enjoy the suspense that keeps those pages turning in this ridiculously fun adventure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why "gross-out" books are so popular. What's so funny, and fascinating, about gross stuff?

  • Did you read Poop Fountain!, the first book in the series? Is this book as good? Which do you like better? If you didn't read it, do you want to now?

  • The three friends have a rhyming contest going. Which rhymes can you think of as you go through your day? Can you find any three-syllable rhymes?

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