cover image Sadie and Ratz

Sadie and Ratz

Sonya Hartnett, illus. by Ann James. Candlewick, $14.99 (64p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5315-6

Lindgren Award–winner Hartnett has been writing for younger and younger readers in recent years, but whether her audience is teenagers (Butterfly), middle-graders (The Midnight Zoo), or now chapter-book readers, she remains willing to expose humanity’s more selfish and destructive tendencies, while handling such themes in a way that’s on-target and appropriate for her audience. In this three-chapter story, “strange things” are happening at the home of Hannah, a girl who is used to terrorizing her four-year-old younger brother, Baby Boy, with her very capable (and often vicious) hands, which she refers to as Sadie and Ratz. “Together, they make a good team. This is what they do: crush things up/ twist and scrunch/ scratch! scratch! scratch!” Given Sadie and Ratz’s rap sheet, when Baby Boy blames Sadie and Ratz for a string of accidents, no one believes he’s anything but a “good boy.” This emotionally fraught terrain is captured exquisitely in James’s perceptive charcoal drawings, which recall the work of Suzy Lee. Despite Hannah’s capacity for violence, Hartnett makes her sympathetic, even without a rosy “all’s well” ending—pray for Hannah and Baby Boy’s parents. Ages 5–8. (Mar.)