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WHEN RATBOY LIVED NEXT DOOR by Chris Woodworth

WHEN RATBOY LIVED NEXT DOOR

By Chris Woodworth

Age Range: 8 - 11

Pub Date: March 17th, 2005
ISBN: 0-374-34677-1
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

When Willis Merrill’s pet raccoon jumps on her back and Willis knocks her down, sixth-grader Lydia Carson knows she wants nothing to do with him. Worse, he’s her new next-door neighbor. However, his older brother Elliott is different. To gain Elliot’s friendship, Lydia begins to give Willis the necessary “special handling.” Reading to him in her favorite tree house fills the empty hours of her summer vacation—those that aren’t filled with new household chores when the Nanna who raised her decides to take an extended vacation. “Sometimes folks just need a helping hand,” Nanna had said, about the ways she helped their new neighbors. Moreover, her absence seems to help Lydia’s family, too. Nevertheless, while relationships in the Carson family are improving, the Merrill family is falling apart. Willis’s father’s drunken rage when he discovers his wife is working results in an incarceration that allows the rest of them to leave, to make a new life somewhere else. Woodworth convincingly describes life in small town Indiana in 1962, the changing relationships between mother and adolescent daughter, and the complicated ways in which families survive and thrive, in this hopeful debut. (Fiction. 8-11)