Just how did Rotten Ralph get so rotten?
Poor, beleaguered Sarah is at her wits’ end with her beloved Rotten Ralph when she cannot find a catsitter willing to care for him. Ralph, chagrined and not a little defensive, takes a trip down Memory Lane via a photo album documenting his time as a kitten with his feline family. Convinced that he sees no evidence of rottenness there (though readers may think otherwise if they examine Rubel’s illustrations), he heads back to the family farm to discover how he ended up so rotten. Once there, hilarity ensues as his family (with the exception of his mother) reveals that they weren’t hapless victims in his photographed hijinks. “Did you find out why you are so rotten?” Ralph’s mother asks him before he gratefully heads home to Sarah. “Yes,” he responds. “Because everyone was so rotten to me.” Poor Ralph returns to Sarah a reformed cat and proceeds to clean his room, tidy the house and prepare her a fancy breakfast in bed. However, fans of Ralph’s rotten ways needn’t be concerned about this apparent transformation, as a closing line asserts that he’s grateful not for some internal change, but for the knowledge that Sarah loves him enough that he can do whatever he wants.
Rot on, Ralph! (Early reader. 6-8)