In thoughtful prose, Drachman (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Leo the Lightning Bug) delivers readers to a school for Bad Rats, where the repressive Professor Perimeter explains to his pupils, "You are bad because you follow your heart and not your mind. Our minds make things neat and our hearts are messy." Though each of the rats dreams of becoming an artist, Perimeter teaches them to abandon their creativity in favor of scurrying and hiding, until at last he rediscovers his own messy heart and strolls off into the sunset. Sepia and gray tones predominate in Muscarello's illustrations, softly rendered in charcoal, ink and watercolor; but his muted palette gives way to color as the mood of the text changes. The accompanying CD is in some ways better than the book, as the extensive dialogue lends itself to Drachman's considerable talents as a performer; moreover, the CD moves slowly enough to allow new readers to follow along. Ages 4-8. (June)
While the professor intends to school his pupils in darkness and deliberation, he learns much from his innocent charges, who teach him about the beauty of imagination. The over-the-top performance [on the dramatic audio CD] relishes the professor's villainy and the student rodents' sweetness in a way sure to charm creative dreamers of every stripe.
The story should resonate with little ones constantly reined in for their own safety. And the triumph of self-expression and the will to risk everything for art are exhilarating.
The San Francisco Chronicle
In a story with a message about the value of creativity, Eric Drachman narrates unobtrusively ...authoritative and imperious...An original musical score adds vitality to a fun production with a message.
. . . lovely artwork, fun music and narration on the CD. In all, a very entertaining book and one for all ages.
Art, music, danceinstruments of the imaginationwork against survival if you are a rat. Creativity is a road map to disaster if keeping your head down and not being noticed is what gets you from one day to the next without being eaten. If you are an artist or a singer or a dancer or a daydreamer and you are a rat, you are a bad rat, which brings you to the attention of Professor Perimeter, whose job it is to fix bad rats. He instructs them to give up art, music, dance, and daydreaming. But young rats Josiah, Priscilla, and Sarah cannot deny their creativity. They join in one last gasp of picture-making, singing, and dancing. In the process they reawaken Professor Perimeter's own memories of the joys of imagination. Reconnected with his feelings, Professor Perimeter gives up teaching the young rats to give up their creative impulses and celebrates them as "exceptional." Every child who has yearned to burst out in song, to move in the wild rhythm of an inner dance, or to express the beauty only he or she can see will see themselves in the young rats brought to Professor Perimeter for correction. The simple, expressive illustrations support the book's central question: is life without imagination or creativity really a life? This book includes an audio CD that presents a reader's theater version of the text with character voices and accompanying music. The book and CD would be a good introduction to the nature of individual expression and creativity in a preschool or early elementary school environment. Reviewer: Hazel Buys
Children's Literature - Hazel Buys
PreS-Gr 3- Five little rats have been labeled as bad rats and must take lessons from the strict and somewhat pompous Professor Perimeter. He is an older rat who knows his business, which is keeping young rats safe by teaching them to conform. The young rats, however, don't wish to give up their dreams. They don't want to hide, and scurry, and stay safe. They want to paint, and sing, and dance. When Professor Perimeter sees them in action, his heart is touched and he recognizes that they're not "bad." They are "exceptional." He no longer seeks to stifle their creativity. This book (Kidwick Books, 2008) by Eric Drachman has a clear message about celebrating individuality. The accompanying CD is more of a performance than a reading, with an introduction by the author, using two voices, and a conclusion in the same vein, that examines some aspects of the tale. The story itself is performed by the author and several other people; sound effects and some original music augment the telling. The production is nicely done, and children will enjoy listening to the slightly wordy text while perusing the soft pastel illustrations by James Muscarello. Still, one might wonder why the little rats couldn't be both safe and creative-
Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA
Heart wins over Head in this nearly plotless fable that seems designed for adult sensibilities, rather than children's. Dubbed "bad" because one wants to paint, one to sing and one to dance, three rats are sent to stern Professor Perimeter to have their attentions refocused on mere survival, like "good" rats. Their performances, however, cause the Professor to recall his own youth-"He saw beyond the walls he'd built, beyond the world he'd known, and deep into the imagination he'd once possessed"-and to upgrade his students from Bad to "Exceptional." In his soft-toned illustrations, Muscarello dresses the Professor in a vest, provides smudges of paint or articles of clothing to distinguish each of the three young artists and places all in a minimally detailed curbside setting. An enclosed CD includes both a dramatization with an original soundtrack and (lest any aspect of the Lesson go unexplained) a lecture. Any promotion of the arts is worthwhile, but the main character here is the grown-up. (Picture book. Adult)First printing of 13,500