When You Wish Upon a Rat is the first middle grade novel from bestselling Australian Author Maureen McCarthy. Once again I have to ask, why oh why do we have to wait to get our hands on great books written in other English speaking countries? Yeah, yeah, I know the official publishing industry answer. Still, it’s a shame we in the US had to wait two extra years to get this gem of a novel!
Originally released in Australia under the title Careful What You Wish For, When You Wish Upon a Rat is the story of eleven-year-old Ruth Craze, who is understandably annoyed by her inattentive family and saddened by the recent death of the one person she felt like she had a connection with, her aunt Mary Ellen. Before Mary Ellen died, she gave Ruth a precious gift, an (apparently) toy rat named Rodney that’s described as “…like a little gnome or a strange elf from a dream, ugly yet weirdly beautiful too.” Well, you can see where this is going, but that doesn’t spoil the fun. I immediately fell in love with the character of Ruth, probably because she’s a girl after my own heart. “So what if she’d quietly read a book? What harm did it do?” Ruth thinks after being chided by her mother for being less than attentive at her brother’s concert. Exactly! Ruth doesn’t want to attend a boring cycling race with her annoying family, and we don’t blame her. Who wants to be dragged along all the time and treated as if their wants and needs are unimportant? So with the help of her strange friend Howard, Ruth heads off to find a lost Rodney.
I did find McCarthy’s structure a little disconcerting at the beginning due to some jumping around in time, but I quickly got used to it, and the excellent characters soon washed away any doubts. I especially loved Rodney’s humorous creepiness once he appeared in the story to offer Ruth the titular wish. I won’t say what the wish is for fear of spoiling it, but I found the resolution very satisfying. I highly recommend it for lovers of middle grade, and I think fans of both realistic fiction and fantasy will enjoy it.
When You Wish Upon a Rat will be released in the US on September 1st.
Cover image: Amulet Books