Fred is tired of moving around with her professor mother, and her dissatisfaction peaks just prior to her 13th birthday. Unable to sleep, she catches her mom stepping into a large paper lantern that has unaccountably appeared in their new living room, and so she follows. She finds herself in a strange new world inhabited by animals, most of whom are bound by rules created by the mysterious missing Rat Queen. (Of note is the titular Rat Rule 79, which states that children will no longer grow up and that time will no longer pass.) Along with new friends Downer the elephant and Gogo the mongoose, Fred embarks on an epic series of adventures to find her mother and locate the infamous Rat Queen. Peppered throughout the sweetly playful text are tidbits of wisdom that highlight the perceived injustices of youth and the qualities of growing older. Galchen’s charming middle-grade debut is filled with life lessons wrapped in occasionally over-the-top wordplay, and Megalos’s whimsical salmon-tinged illustrations provide a delightful counterpoint. Though absurdist situations and plays on logic can at times overwhelm the plot, the novel’s underlying messages are as timeless as its tethers to classic works of children’s fantasy. Ages 10–up. Agent: Bill Clegg, the Clegg Agency. (Sept.)
Praise for Rivka Galchen:
“Galchen is, for my money, one of the most gifted stylists writing in American English today. Her funniness is otherworldly; she is the reigning champion of litotes, or understatement for effect. Preternaturally deft, Galchen can do almost anything with next to nothing.”
—Lucy Ives, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Skillful, imaginative, often funny.... In that grand tradition of American innovators, perhaps Ms. Galchen's greatest artistic creation is herself.”
—Adam Langer, The New York Times Book Review
“Galchen is to fiction what Ferran Adrià is to gastronomy, serving up the whimsical, the startling, and the revelatory in the guise of the delightfully familiar.”
—Garth Risk Hallberg, The Millions
“Galchen's sentences catch your attention and hold it with a tight fist.... Delicious.”
—Alan Cheuse, NPR
“Galchen has a knack for taking a thread and fraying it, so that a sentence never quite ends up where you expect.”
—James Wood, The New Yorker
“She writes like a wide-eyed oracle, in a state of knowing calm.”
—Jeffrey Gleaves, The Paris Review
“To read Rivka Galchen is to enter a wonderland where the bizarre and the mundane march in unlikely lockstep.”
—Michael Lindgren, The Washington Post
“Galchen is an elegant and careful writer.”
—Willa Paskin, Slate
“A brilliant young writer.”
—Elyse Moody, Elle
Rat Rule 79 is the adventure I didn’t know I wanted until it started, just like it’s the book you don’t yet know you’re going to love. We have been waiting for this book our entire lives.
Rat Rule 79 is an impossibly perfect book: a Mobius strip where the love loops continuously between mother's daughters and daughter's mothers, law and disorder, the lost and the found. Fred is a heroine for the ages—a twelve-year old savant of mathematical and emotional truths and a connoisseur of peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, Fred is smart enough to navigate irrational lands, demands, and numbers, and brave enough to love the strangest strangers. Rat Rule 79 belongs on a shelf of classics with The Phantom Tollbooth, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and The Last Unicorn. How can it be that Galchen's epic, so utterly, enchantingly new, also gave me the happiest deja vu while reading? How can the Dark, Dark Woods be such an illuminating place? These and other paradoxes fill Galchen's astonishing, hilarious, mind-and-heart expanding book. As I read, I thought, ‘I can't wait to share this with my daughter, son, mother, brother, sister, best friend...’ a number set that eventually swelled to include: everyone.
"I love this book. It’s a wonder. I wish I’d had Rat Rule 79 when I was a boy. I’d have been obsessed with Fred and her adventures and reread her funny sweet story a hundred times, always finding something new.
Lewis Carroll, Norton Juster, Tove Jansson, Russell Hoban; like them, Rivka Galchen has written a book for children and adults that occupies its own delightful and preposterous space. Rat Rule 79 feels like it has simply been waiting to fall into our laps.
Fred is a little bit Alice, a little bit Dorothy, but wholly original and smart, smart, smart. This is exactly how I like my word play. Can't decide if I'm more enamored with the Insult Fish or the Elephant in the Room. Prime mother-daughter book club fodder.
"Rivka Galchen's Rat Rule 79 is clever and strange and so very much fun, but what makes Rat Rule 79 so remarkable is the warmth and wisdom that exudes from its pages. A subversive Wizard of Oz for kids too smart for their own good, it's sure to become many a young readers' favorite book for years to come."
Witty, clever, and bright, Rat Rule 79 is a timeless adventure for readers of all ages. Filled with logic problems, riddles, and sharp word play, the Land of Impossibility is a place you will want to visit again, and again, and again. The characters are vibrant and unique, the prose is snappy and engaging, and the illustrations are whimsical, even with their limited color palette.
Clever and fully entertaining, this humorous middle grade is perfect for parents AND young readers. I love the wordplay, the puzzles and the omnipresent narrator offering asides to the reader. Highly recommend!