cover image The Nine Lives of Rotten Ralph

The Nine Lives of Rotten Ralph

Jack Gantos, , illus. by Nicole Rubel. . Houghton Mifflin, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-618-80046-9

Uh oh. Rotten Ralph is in bigger trouble than ever. After a rough night of “being rotten with his alley cat friends,” he gets some bad news from the vet: he's used up eight of his lives and, per the nine lives chart, “Next Stop: Cat Heaven (Good Cats Only!)” At his owner Sarah's request, a forlorn Ralph recaps (in thought bubbles) how he lost his eight lives, providing a quick tour of his previous eight picture-book misadventures, a reminder of just how uproarious—and timeless—these stories are. Sarah announces that Ralph's rotten days are behind him, vowing to protect her pet: he ends up in a baby buggy, wearing a bonnet. Kids won't expect this to last, and it doesn't. Leaping out the window, he engages in some typical shenanigans (“He ran into the aquarium and grabbed two electric eels. That shocked him back into action”) but, luckily for fans (and his owner), he returns, last life intact. Gantos and Rubel remain in perfect comic sync, as wryly understated text and dynamic art deliver Ralph at his rotten best. Ages 3–7. (May)