Early Book Review: When You Wish upon a Rat by Maureen McCarthy

When You Wish upon a Rat by Maureen McCarthy is a children's book for around age 10 and older. It is scheduled for release in the U.S. on September 2012, but was originally released in Australia as Careful What You Wish For in 2012. This is a 'wish-gone-wrong book with the expected themes of a crazy family not being as bad as you think, but it also deals with grief and abuse. Ruth Craze had it all; a great aunt, popular best friends, and a cool stuffed rat. One day when Ruth was eager to meet up with her friends, Rodney the stuffed rat is lost. After that her aunt succumbs to illness and her friendships fall apart. Tired of feeling ignored by her eccentric family, Ruth skips an event and takes up a classmates offer to look for Rodney. Finding Rodney is only the beginning, his offer of three wishes to obtain the perfect life, the perfect family, is too tempting for Ruth. Only, she is quick to discover that perfect my not be all that it is cracked up to be.

When You Wish upon a Rat starts with a familiar idea, a kid not happy with their situation wishes for something else, only to discover that the life they already have might just be perfect for them. However, McCarthy tosses in some heavier ideas, like Ruth dealing with the loss of her aunt, who she had a special relationship with. Subjects about being yourself, and not just going along with the crowd are handled too, while Ruth wants friends she cannot just go along with the popular girls and do what they want her to, she would rather be herself. I could completely relate with Ruth as she dreaded shopping and acting a puppet. Howard, her classmate and fellow outcast, is an abused boy with a penchant for stealing. The two share a bond, and it is interesting to see how two very different kids can understand and relate to each other.

I recommend When You Wish upon a Rat to middle grade readers that enjoy stories about characters they can relate to, in adventures they might wish to have. Ruth is a slightly selfish, but realistic character that most readers will be able to identify with on some level. Readers that are bored with this kind of story might want to bow out, but this book might also rekindle their interest. The story does take place in Australia, with some slang and terms American readers might not immediately recognize, but in context it is all very understandable.
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