A Smithsonian mammal specialist makes a bid to clean up the rat’s rotten rep.
Answering the titular question with “Maybe. Maybe not,” Lunde shifts readers’ focus away from rats in urban environments to wild species—from the bamboo-eating long-tailed marmoset rat of Southeast Asia to the Philippines’ bushy-tailed cloud rat. He also notes the important roles rats play in spreading seeds, feeding snakes and other predators, and (without getting too, or actually at all, specific) medical research. Gustavson joins the rescue operation with close-ups of rats rendered in naturalistic detail but looking more inquisitive than feral, sporting large pink ears and whiskery snouts. Some of the city settings are picturesquely grimy, but there are no dead creatures or images more disturbing than, in one scene, a white lab rat and a researcher in surgical garb locking eyes. On the contrary, another illustration even features a rat leaning in from the edge of the page to peer up at viewers, and a closing portrait gallery of selected rat species is equally fetching.
Not particularly convincing as a reclamation project but generally informative and easy on the eyes. (online resources) (Informational picture book. 6-8)