Cool Daddy Rat and Bad Rats

Posted on: May 25th, 2008 No Comments

‘Cool Daddy Rat’ and ‘Bad Rats’
Regan McMahon, Chronicle Deputy Book Editor
Published 4:00 am, Sunday, May 25, 2008

Just in time for Father’s Day comes the jazzy picture book Cool Daddy Rat by Kristyn Crow, illustrated by Mike Lester (Putnam; 32 pages; $16.99; ages 4-8). It tells the story of a jazz musician who arrives at his gig one night only to discover that his son, Ace, has sneaked into his stand-up bass case. So Daddy takes him along on his rounds all over New York City.

They go to a nightclub (“caught a gig at the Big Swig”), hop on a boat (“plucked the blues on a shmooze cruise”), stop to play music in Times Square (“and filled the street with his sweet beat”). Finally Ace does some scatting of his own, after which he “bowed proud to a wowed crowd.”

The hep-cat language and vibrant illustrations with a sketchbook look are equally exuberant, giving the story so much momentum it seems more like an animated cartoon than a book. You couldn’t find a hipper father-kid story to enjoy together.

For a different kind of rat tale, there’s Bad Rats by Eric Drachman, illustrated by James Muscarello (Kidwick; 32 pages; $18.95; ages 4-8; comes with audio CD). The premise is clever: Old rat Professor Perimeter is training young “bad” rats to hide in the day and dart stealthily through the streets at night. Professor Perimeter is as mean as Harry Potter’s Professor Snape as he identifies each rat’s “behavior problems”: “You are bad because you daydream. You wander away from walls. You are too thoughtful. You carry on during the daytime …”

They resolve to change, but when one dances her last dance, another sings her last song and another paints his last picture, the professor is so moved he’s transformed. The story should resonate with little ones constantly reined in for their own safety. And the triumph of self-expression and the will to risk everything for art are exhilarating.

Source: SFGate

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