The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid, by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Mayers

Brothers Ralphie and Louie return for more early chapter book fun in The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid, by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Mayers (Candlewick, September 2017).   The rat brothers are faced with twin challenges in this outing.  The first is to build their own arcade in a vacant lot near their home, which involves moving lots of junk, a lot of ingenuity, and a lot of cooperation from their various animal friends.  And of course it involves lots of fun!

The second type of challenge is a tougher one.  Louie, the older brother, has to confront his fear of the "haunted" house next to the lot.  When part of one of the games flies off and breaks the window of the house, Louie screws his courage to the sticking point and rings the doorbell.  Much to his relief, instead of a ghost there's a lonely old squirrel gentleman, who becomes a friend.

Ralphie must be brave too, when a sticky social situation develops at school.  Ages ago he gave a classmate a mean nickname that stuck and made her life miserable, and now that he and Louie have given up cultivating tough, mean personas (as described in The Infamous Ratsos) he realizes how very wrong this was.  So he has to find the courage to admit his fault and make things right by speaking out in public.

So yes, there's a moral point at work alongside the fun of building the arcade.  But it is a fact that kids have to confront fears all the time, and to see two boy rats doing so, and living through it, will be both comforting and inspiring for young readers.  Big Lou, the boys' dad, who's as tough as they come, admits to being afraid sometimes himself, and gives pithy advice on working through fear and coming out the other side that's both wise and useful.

My own early reading is the source for many of the life lessons that rattle around in my brain as verbatim quotes, and  I'm all in favor of early chapter books like this one, that nest such lessons into fun and charming stories.

My only personal regret with this one is that I would have loved to spend much more time in the vacant lot cleaning the junk up and making the games etc.  It's a lovely premise and sounds like tons of fun.  Which actually has made another thought occur to me--it's nice to see a book about not well-off (at least they don't seem to be, and the neighborhood, with dilapidated houses and vacant lots full of junk, supports this assumption), urban kids making their own fun and having a loving supportive parent.

Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea, too, of urban kids making their own fun. This sounds like a really fun book, one I will check out. Thanks for the review.


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