Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ratfink review


Fifth-grader Logan's new and all-consuming worry is that his friends will find out about his embarrassing grandfather. Logan is determined to keep his social circle and his grandfather (suffering from Alzheimer's and prone to random and bizarre outbursts, such as streaking the neighbors) as far away from each other as possible. That's an increasingly difficult task to undertake when his grandfather's deteriorating condition has just necessitated moving in with his family.

Meanwhile, at school Logan is bullied by bossy new girl Emily "the Snot" Scott, who wants to know what mysterious artifact Logan's best friend Malik is carrying around in his backpack. If Logan won't snoop for her, she threatens to publish photos of his grandfather running around in his boxers. I found Logan a bit hard to sympathize with at times, as his obsession with keeping his poor grandfather under wraps struck me as a bit self-centered and shallow. On the other hand, it was an honest portrayal of what a lot of popularity-obsessed middle-schoolers might actually feel in that situation. This is a perfect snapshot of that time in lots of boys lives, before girls are on their radar. It's clear that Emily is only an annoyance to Logan, nothing more. Logan struggles with his loyalties, but after plenty of build-up, finally decides not to betray Malik's trust. And we never do find out what is in Malik's backpack. Lame! I was very curious! Was it a stuffed toy that Malik would be embarrassed to be seen carrying? A weird science contraption that he's working on? Medical supplies for asthma, diabetes or the like? We'll never know!

Logan's parents briefly consider an assisted-living situation, something which Logan views with dread. In his grandfather's lucid moments, it's clear that Logan and his grandfather have a very warm relationship. His grandfather gives him sage advice about how to handle a few sticky situations at school, and manages to deliver the book's message about sticking up for yourself and ignoring the crowd when necessary without sounding too preachy or corny, a laudable feat. I wanted to see more moments like this -- where our protagonist is a bit less neurotic.

For such a well-drawn sketch of family life, I found the ending a bit unrealistic and a little too pat. Still, the issues of loyalty, friendship and family are well-explored and Bailey School Kids author Marcia Thornton Jones shows a more mature, well-rounded side in this middle-grade offering. I would recommend this to readers aged 8-12.

I borrowed this book from the library.


  1. Lucky my English teacher had graduated from my highschool 5 years ago, so guess what? He joined in on the hatred for this book! He said that if he didn't have to teach it, he wouldn't.

    I agree. If anyone in their right mind thinks every teenager was/are just like Holden, they need some help.

    Did you know that Holden was in a psychiatrist ward the whole time he told us his story?

  2. Oh, yes, Catcher in the Rye. Dumb book. That and I Am the Cheese -- another one we were required to read in high school that I never cared for.



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