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by W.H. Beck & illustrated by Brian Lies

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-68100-9
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Malcolm is a small rat who is often mistaken for a mouse, which is both a blessing and a curse.

As a fifth-grade “mouse” pet he has a comfortable cage, good food and a classroom full of interesting kids, and, amazingly, Malcolm discovers he can read! During nighttime explorations, he becomes part of the Midnight Academy, a group of varied creatures who are also classroom pets. They speak and have several sophisticated means of communication utilizing school bells, secret codes and even cellphones and computers. But there is a prowling, vicious rogue cat, and there have been thefts, disappearances and cases of vandalism. Malcolm is at the center of it all, always under suspicion but determined to use his rat abilities to act honorably. What follows is a breathless, exciting tale of adventure, danger, betrayal, twists and surprises. Beck unfolds the events in the form of an anonymous note to teacher Mr. Binney detailing Malcolm’s journey, with clever and sometimes hilarious asides in the form of footnotes. Meditations on the nature of power and friendship are subtly and seamlessly woven within the plot. Lies’ meticulously detailed illustrations in endless varieties of gray depict the highlights of Malcolm’s adventures and capture each creature’s individuality. Malcolm’s mouse/rat appearance underscores the confusion as to his real species.

A rip-roaring tale; even rodent haters will have to like Malcolm. (Animal fantasy. 8-12)