Enchanted with the sound of other young rats playing tiny violins at the Community Hall, Little Rat can't wait to take lessons. Her new teacher, a short-tempered rabbit named Miss Wingbutton, has "little tolerance for silliness." She yells at Little Rat for sawing her bow back and forth on the strings. When Little Rat finally gets to play her first real note, it sounds like this: SQWAAAAAAKK! Little Rat likes her lessons, she likes her violin, but she does not like practicing for a half an hour each day at home. ". . . Getting herself to do it was like wrestling a goat . . . Even cleaning the litter box was better than practicing." She hits one wrong note after another until she feels a violin-practice tantrum coming on. "THIS IS STUPID!" she bellows in frustration.
Tutoring sessions with Kitty, a cat who is one of the advanced students, gets her excited again, especially when the two are asked to play a duet at the holiday concert. Molly Bang's exquisite and detailed pencil, gouache, and watercolor illustrations for this charming first chapter book are irresistible. Kitty advises, "Playing music is like eating a big pile of spaghetti. You can only eat one bit at a time or it makes a big mess." In the accompanying illustration, the Siamese cat is standing upright, bow in one hand, violin in the other. Little Rat is holding her bow, and, in a big thought bubble, imagining herself digging in to a big plate of pasta.
See how Little Rat pursues some of her other passions in Little Rat Sets Sail. When Little Rat's parents sign her up for sailing lessons, she's afraid of everything: running down the hill, being out in the middle of the water in a floating bathtub, jumping in the water, and clipping on the jib, the sail at the front or bow of the boat. Of course she learns to conquer those fears, and becomes a proficient little sailor, thanks to her understanding and reassuring instructor, Buzzy Bear. Readers will examine the labeled painting of the sailboat and will absorb some sailing knowledge and vocabulary: mainsail, heeling, capsize, centerboard, tiller. In Little Rat Rides, she undertakes horseback riding.
THEMES: CATS. MUSIC. PERSEVERANCE. RATS.
Harcourt Children, 2007
Suggested Ages: 4-7