cover image Cinderella's Rat

Cinderella's Rat

Susan Meddaugh. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-86833-1

Fairy tale magic goes comically awry in Meddaugh's (Martha Speaks) witty take on the story of Cinderella. An ordinary rat and his sister Ruth fear they are doomed after they are lured into a rat trap. But they've happened into no ordinary snare: their captor waves a wand and changes the narrator into a coachman (""Well, more of a coachboy"") and instructs him to chauffeur a smiling blonde girl to a ball. As the girl dances the night away, the rat/coachboy finds a wizard to work the same kind of form-changing magic on Ruth. Unfortunately, the bumbling wizard's wacky spells change Ruth into a girl who barks like a dog. This zany string of events leads to a satisfying conclusion, just at the stroke of midnight. Meddaugh suffuses her silly plot with a pert drollery that keeps readers intrigued from start to finish. Children will no doubt find encouragement to imagine all sorts of additional twists on the traditional fairy tale. Meddaugh's spirited watercolors capture the rats' frantic and amazed expressions as they tumble through life-altering adventures. And her skillful use of kinetic swirls and sparkles suggests nothing short of magic. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)