Must you and your best friend be the same type of rodent?
This ode to friendship opens with the purest scansion and a hilarious setup (joyfully repeated later) that invites readers to chime in. “Lake Park only had one squirrel, / all alone and sad (poor Cyril). / Until the morning he met Pat, / his new best friend, a big gray…”—here’s the page turn, where readers will shout rat—”SQUIRREL! Just like me,” declares Cyril, arms wide open to Pat, who sports a wobbly smile and an extremely ratlike tail. The two romp all over their big-city park, startling pigeons, nabbing duck food, and fleeing a dog. Cyril interrupts all attempts to identify Pat as a rat. Only when humans—a black mom and child, each wearing a red sweater and red galoshes—let the rat out of the bag does Cyril see the truth. The other animals, annoyed, assert that “squirrels can’t be friends with rats,” and Pat (who’s never gendered) slinks off the page. “Cyril, now back on his own, / tried to play their games alone.” But he’s unhappy—and unsafe. In a dark, visually stunning sequence outside the park, Pat saves Cyril, and all is well. Scansion (after the opening) and rhyming are inconsistent, but Gravett’s great good humor and mischievous illustrations in pencil, watercolor, and acrylic ink are bang-on, as always—especially in the fact that besides tail and ear shapes, Cyril and Pat are almost identical.
Cheeky yet sincere. (Picture book. 3-6)