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THE RAT QUEEN by Pete Hautman


by Pete Hautman

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-5362-1858-9
Publisher: Candlewick

Annie has always wanted to visit Litvania, but the trip, when she finally goes, reveals a sordid family history and a need for reparations.

Motherless, home-schooled Annike Klimas was raised in America on Litvanian folklore, which features lots of rats. When she turns 10, Papa tells her that it’s a family tradition—and secret—that she begin feeding the nuodeema burna, or eater of sins. Writing down her bad deeds and dropping the notes into the burna, a hole in the floor, will help relieve her conscience. Papa does it and is rejuvenated afterward, but Annie resists—it deadens her experiences, and she wants to feel both the good and the bad. Also, she stops growing taller every time she feeds the burna. Slowly revealed hints about Papa’s questionable character combined with unsettling fairy tales embedded throughout the story create a menacing atmosphere and foreshadow events. Annie, trying to discover the source of the burna’s magic, finds a plague of rats—and accidentally burns down their home. Now her father seems to be dying. He demands they travel to Litvania to petition Queen Zurka to extend his life. There, Annie discovers the depth of her father’s betrayals, leading to a moral quandary: Does Papa deserve a second chance? Remorse, honor, and forgiveness are just some of the themes in this creepy, symbolically rich saga featuring a default White cast from a fictional Baltic nation.

Complex and provocative.

(author’s note, glossary) (Fantasy. 9-13)