The Truth about Rats, Rules, & Seventh Grade

Linda Zinnen, Author
Linda Zinnen, Author HarperCollins Publishers $14.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-06-028799-3
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
Library Binding - 153 pages - 978-0-06-028800-6
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The frank, often humorous narrative of 11-year-old Larch Waysorta is this fast-paced first novel's greatest strength. All is well between Larch and her chain-smoking, junk-food addicted and taciturn single mother--as long as they both adhere to their unspoken list of household rules, which basically forbids any discussion of her father or his death. Then one day her teacher assigns a project to compile a Who's Who of Pottsville, Ohio, whereby each student must interview a subject. Larch's subject is the school janitor, Charles Prouty, who introduces Larch to a rat-killer dog and reveals a fact about her father's death that sends her reeling. A scene between Larch, her mom and a persistent rat, which causes Larch to lure the dog into her trailer, will likely have readers' skin crawling. The author leaves a few loose ends, such as Larch and Charles Prouty barely speaking after their exchange and the relative lack of consequences when Larch fails to complete her biography. And while Larch's love-hate relationship with the dog proves an effective device to portray her tendency to obscure and dodge the truth, the rat-killer never emerges as a credible dog character. Still, the author handily balances serious and comic moments. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)
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