By W.H. Beck
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The story of Malcolm, a young rat of valor and merit, who joins a cadre of classroom pets at McKenna Elementary School. . . and their Midnight Academy. What is up on the unused fourth floor of the school? Why are things going missing in Room 11?
An unforgettable cast of characters and plot twists make this a story to read over and over!
Kirkus Reviews, July 18, 2012
Malcolm is a small rat who is often mistaken for a mouse, which is both a blessing and a curse.
As a fifth-grade “mouse” pet he has a comfortable cage, good food and a classroom full of interesting kids, and, amazingly, Malcolm discovers he can read! During nighttime explorations, he becomes part of the Midnight Academy, a group of varied creatures who are also classroom pets. They speak and have several sophisticated means of communication utilizing school bells, secret codes and even cellphones and computers. But there is a prowling, vicious rogue cat, and there have been thefts, disappearances and cases of vandalism. Malcolm is at the center of it all, always under suspicion but determined to use his rat abilities to act honorably. What follows is a breathless, exciting tale of adventure, danger, betrayal, twists and surprises. Beck unfolds the events in the form of an anonymous note to teacher Mr. Binney detailing Malcolm’s journey, with clever and sometimes hilarious asides in the form of footnotes. Meditations on the nature of power and friendship are subtly and seamlessly woven within the plot. Lies’ meticulously detailed illustrations in endless varieties of gray depict the highlights of Malcolm’s adventures and capture each creature’s individuality. Malcolm’s mouse/rat appearance underscores the confusion as to his real species.
A rip-roaring tale; even rodent haters will have to like Malcolm.
Newsday, Sept. 12, 2012
Everything about Malcolm at Midnight by W.H. Beck (Houghton Mifflin, $16.99, ages 9-12) cries out for a place on the list of books read aloud in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms.
“Escapades, humor, and romance weave together in this madcap elementary school adventure from first-time author Beck. When fifth-grade teacher Mr. Binney mistakes Malcolm, a small rat, for a mouse and purchases him as a classroom pet, Malcolm develops an identity crisis. He soon learns that rats are held in low esteem by both humans and other animals, first from Mr. Binney’s read-aloud of The Tale of Despereaux (“Was that what people really thought of rats? That they are sneaky, conniving, lazy, greedy?”), and then when Midnight Academy members (pets from other classrooms) accept him only after he self-identifies as a mouse. Longing to prove his worthiness through “valor and merit,” Malcolm faces numerous challenges: Honey Bunny the rabbit’s distrust, Snip the cat’s evil plans against “the nutters” (children), and his forbidden friendship with fifth-grader Amelia. Lies’s (Bats at the Ballgame) detailed spot illustrations are a lively complement to the story, which is written in second person by an unnamed (but identifiable) narrator as an anonymous letter, complete with assigned classroom vocabulary and footnotes. A first-rate debut.”
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from Richard Peck, Newbery Medalist:
Its my kind of yarn when a classroom pet nibbles on a social studies textbook but finds it too dry. And when an owl is unnerved by its food talking back. Malcolm, the somewhat conflicted hero of this piece, is indeed a rat of valor and merit. So is his story.
from Kathryn Erskine, National Book Award Winner:
Malcolm at Midnight has all the valor and adventure of The Tale of Despereaux with the hysterical wit of Frindle, which will keep kids both laughing and mesmerized. Its everything a young reader wants—mystery, cliff hangers, a fast pace, engaging characters, and a satisfying story. Three cheers for the fresh and funny Malcolm!