The best thing about Emmy is not that she's a good girl. It isn't that she obeys her nanny or gets good grades. And it certainly isn't that she eats her vegetables. No, the best thing about the heroine of Lynne Jonell's Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat is that Emmy develops the courage to believe in herself.
Emmy has lived a curious life ever since her parents inherited Great-Great-Uncle William's mansion and fortune. The kids at school look right through her and her teacher forgets her name. Miss Barmy, her new nanny, insists that Emmy eat tofu and visit the school psychologist. But Emmy's life is never the same after the day the class' pet rat begins talking to her.
The strange events of Emmy's life suddenly seem connected, and they all appear to lead right back to Miss Barmy: Emmy's parents forget about their daughter after they eat Miss Barmy's potato rolls, Miss Barmy berates Emmy for her supposed behavioral problems and makes her drink an unidentifiable violet tonic and then, of course, there's the talking rat. When classmate Joe Benson can suddenly see her and the Rat follows her home, Emmy decides to investigate these intriguing instances in a quest for self-confidence and her parents' love. But can she uncover the peculiar mystery while the ever-present Miss Barmy lurks in every corner? And can Miss Barmy's true nature be revealed before it's too late for Emmy—and her parents?
Jonell has invented a fantastic tale of magic, bravery and love, and Jonathan Bean's "flip book" illustrations of the Rat crawling across a branch and tumbling into Emmy's hands add to the charm. Friends are found in the unlikeliest of places and Emmy discovers that it is OK to sometimes venture outside of the good-girl role. With friends like Joe, the Rat, Brian and Professor Capybara by her side, the newly confident Emmy can move mountains.
Jonell has published seven picture books, but this is her first fiction for middle-grade readers. She is currently working on a sequel to Emmy's adventures, which we hope will be just as rousing as her first.
Katie Lewis investigates her own mysteries—sans rodents—in Nashville. Copyright 2007 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 July #1
Ten-year-old Emmy lived happily with her parents in an apartment above their bookstore until an unexpected inheritance changed their lives. Now Emmy's parents spend their time jet-setting, leaving Emmy in the not-so-loving hands of her very strange nanny, Miss Barmy. Miss Barmy pretends to act in Emmy's best interests, but something's rotten in her rigid regimen. Emmy tries to be so good, but no one notices her except the talking Rat who lives in her classroom. Rat warns Emmy that she's "a big nothing" and urges her to stand up for herself and "try being bad." Emmy frees the Rat, triggering a landslide of fantastical events featuring the conniving Miss Barmy, cunning Professor Vole and The Antique Rat, his mysterious shop filled with rare rodents. As a transformed Emmy and some new four-legged friends try to outwit Miss Barmy and outrun Professor Vole, the irascible Rat turns the tide. Fun and funny, this fast-paced page turner appropriately begins and ends with the unforgettable Rat in an acrobatic flip-book feature. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 August #4
Jonell's (the Christopher and Robbie picture books) first novel is a lustrous affair, a droll fantasy with an old-fashioned sweep and a positively cinematic cast. The beginning will hook readers right away: the class pet, a rat, mocks the protagonist for being too good. "It doesn't get you anywhere," he tells her. "The only thing that happens is, you get ignored." When the teacher doesn't even seem to see the girl a few pages later, the rat has made his case for being bad, and Jonell has launched a truly labyrinthine plot involving prodigally endowed rodents and nefarious schemers with entangled pasts. Emmy, the heroine, must face down evil nanny Jane Barmy and win back the love of her parents, former booksellers who, since inheriting Great-Great-Uncle William's fortune, spend all their time jet-setting and buying themselves the very best of everything. Her challenge increases when the rat--freed by Emmy, one of the few characters who can hear him talk--accidentally shrinks her to his size. Jonell's villains aren't too frightening to be good targets for jokes, and the rat serves as an excellent comic foil. Occasionally the eccentricities of the plot sidetrack the action or otherwise bog down the pacing, but for the most part the narrative proceeds at an assured clip. To top off the fun, Bean (At Night and The Apple Pie That Papa Baked , both reviewed above) decorates the margins with drawings that produce a flip-book effect: the rat falls from the bough of a tree, covering his eyes as he somersaults backward in mid-air to land in Emmy's outstretched hand. Ages 9-up. (Aug.)[Page 90]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Gr 3-6-- Emmy Addison was perfectly happy as the daughter of bookstore owners--and then her parents inherited a lot of money and she suddenly became invisible. She can't understand why her formerly attentive and loving mother and father keep taking off for faraway places and leaving her in the hands of an incredibly controlling nanny named Miss Barmy. And no one at school seems to know she exists. Then, she is bitten by the classroom rat and discovers that she can understand every word he says, as can Joe, one of the cool kids in her class who was also bitten. At this point, events start to unfold and a fast-paced adventure begins. To Joe's chagrin, he discovers that a second bite makes a person shrink to the size of an action figure and Emmy discovers that Miss Barmy has been mixing animal essences together to control the Addisons' lives. With the aid of new animal friends, Emmy embarks upon a perilous path to undo the evil nanny's sinister plans. A mystery is cleverly woven into this fun and, at times, hilarious caper, and children are likely to find themselves laughing out loud during some parts. A medley of endearing characters adds to an already delightful read.--Robyn Gioia, Bolles School, Ponte Vedra, FL[Page 200]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.