Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Review: Rat Rule 79: An Adventure by Rivka Galchen

I'm back! While I've been managing (barely) to keep up with reviews the last days due to a weekend trip, I'm sorry I haven't been able to add a few personal words. And no, that doesn't mean I'll babble more to make up for it.

Today's review is a re-release from a prized adult author. It is quirk. Very quirky. And super witty with clever dialogue and humor. Plus, there are illustrations! (I love pictures). 

But no babbling...right? 

by Rivka Galchen
Illustrated by Elena Megalos
Restless Books
Tween Fantasy
256 pages

From the  New Yorker  “20 Under 40” author of  Atmospheric Disturbances  comes a brain-twisting adventure story of a girl named Fred on a quest through a world of fantastical creatures, strange logic, and a powerful prejudice against growing up.

Fred and her math-teacher mom are always on the move, and Fred is getting sick of it. She’s about to have yet another birthday in a new place without friends. On the eve of turning thirteen, Fred sees something strange in the living room: her mother, dressed for a party, standing in front of an enormous paper lantern—which she steps into and disappears.

Fred follows her and finds herself in the Land of Impossibility—a loopily illogical place where time is outlawed, words carry dire consequences, and her unlikely allies are a depressed white elephant and a pugnacious mongoose mother of seventeen. With her new friends, Fred sets off in search of her mom, braving dungeons, Insult Fish, Fearsome Ferlings, and a mad Rat Queen. To succeed, the trio must find the solution to an ageless riddle.

Gorgeously illustrated and reminiscent of The Phantom Tollbooth and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Rivka Galchen’s Rat Rule 79 is an instant classic for curious readers of all ages.



Reminding of the same quirkiness as found in Alice in Wonderland, this book takes an original twist and dives into an unpredictable fantasy world.

Fred is as ordinary as her name. Unfortunately, her life is ordinary, too. So much so that Fred doesn't even know when her mother's birthday is (it's never been celebrated). One day, when Fred goes to the living room, she discovers her mother standing in front of a large lantern. This is only the beginning as Fred is taken to another realm and needs to search for her mother as well as solve all sorts of other issues along the way.

This is a book packed with humor, which relies on clever dialogue and unique situations. I did smile several times and even had to snort down a laugh once or twice. The play on words, twisted logic of the characters, and flipping everything upside-down, was intriguing and masterfully done. It doesn't talk down to the age group and places Fred in the perfect light for her age group. It's done in a heavy, narrative style with a narrator, who is clip, clear and adds tons of humor too. So, it's a fun read.

Plot wise, it's fine but could be better. There is always something going on...although much of the scenes depend on silly wit more than actual advancing of a plot. The characters do shine, and there's definitely never an overdose on descriptions. While some aspects pull through well and wrap up at the end, others (and in my opinion, the more obvious plot strings) are not tied and even ignored. For example, Fred and her mother have obvious problems, but these issues are never resolved nor does the tale work around them...although there is even a side plot which acts as a mirror to the issue. Plus, there were a few holes, where things were mentioned but never connected. Also, I'm not sure the humor itself will always hold readers' attention, since it pushes plot and action aside, sometimes.

The illustrations in this one are so much fun! I enjoyed each one and like the way they bring life to the world Fred is discovering. It makes the tale that much more grabbing and makes up for several missing descriptions. So, these do work hand-in-hand with the tale.

I did find this read fun and interesting, and believe that the right reader will enjoy it quite a bit.

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